Doing Away With “Drama”


Are you one of the skeptics talking about how tired you are of the “drama” between Rebecca and D.J.? I hate to break it to you, but what you are doing and saying is part of what is dragging these discussions out so long.

Something women and especialy teenage girls thrive on. consisting of any number of situations that have an easy solution, wich would bring a fairly good outcome, but these girls choose another, shitty, bad way to deal with it, again consisting of backstabbing, blackmailing/gossiping/betraying their friends, or the all-too-common “I want to break up with him but i still love him!”
it drives men and what i like to call “normal” girls nuts.

The above definition is the top-rated for “drama” currently at Urban Dictionary. It isn’t a definition you’ll find in the major dictionaries, but it’s a very common use. The next several definitions are similarly gendered. The fact that I’ve seen it in use in skeptical fora and subreddits isn’t surprising. They have already earned reputations as places where misogyny is tolerated.

It is disturbing to see similar characterizations used among the broader community, however, even if many of them don’t intend to evoke the gendered nature of the word. The implication that what is happening right now with D.J. Grothe is some sort of personal tiff between him and Rebecca Watson is…well, it’s discouraging. It is, once again, a reduction of broad societal problems and philosophical disagreements on the shape of our movements to a he-said/she-said that can be endlessly argued over in minute detail without ever addressing, much less resolving the actual issues involved.

The word we should be using if we want to accurately describe what’s going on is “conflict”. Yes, I know conflict isn’t any more appealing for a lot of people. It’s uncomfortable and messy. It involves sorting through words and claims, not just their emotional valences, to identify the issues rather than the personalities involved. Still, if there’s any hope of settling these issues–if not broadly then on a community-by-community basis within the movement–those issues have to be both identified and discussed.

So what are the issues? Let’s take a look.

How is sexism to be addressed within the skeptical and atheist movements?

This discussion has gone on far longer than the year since Rebecca said, “Guys, don’t do that.” PZ asked almost a year before for input from women on what kept them away and what needed to be fixed, and the discussion was ongoing before that. Those comments have been gobbled by the platform change at ScienceBlogs, hopefully temporarily, but it isn’t hard to find the issues women have identified as barriers to their participation online or in person.

  • Social interactions that are focused around a woman’s looks or sexual availability instead of the same skeptical, atheist, or just geeky topics that dominate the conversations among men.
  • Generalizations about differences in intelligence, rationality, or competence of the sexes.
  • Appeals to the naturalistic fallacy to prescribe particular social roles to the sexes.
  • Failure to create events that can accommodate those who are primary caretakers for children.
  • Failure to have female speakers or speakers on topics that are of greater relevance to women.
  • Direct hostility toward women in the forms of shouting-down women who speak and sexual harassment.
  • Assumptions that the male experience is universal, and thus “correct”, when it comes to discussing these issues.

If any of these are new ideas to you, let me know. I’ll show you where people have attempted to find solutions to these problems.

Does the movement or any community within it have to address any or all of these issues? No, of course they don’t. Each community is welcome to decide how welcoming they want to be to women. It really is about time, however, that these conversations be had directly, consciously, and openly, so women can decide which communities they want to participate in.

How is harassment to be addressed within the skeptical and atheist movements?

I mentioned harassment already, but I want to talk about it separately because it is such a prominent part of this particular conflict. I think it’s well-established at this point that harassment occurs in the skeptic and atheist movements and that event organizers are not always aware of this harassment for multiple reasons. That still leaves multiple questions to be considered, however.

  • It’s been asked how we know whether harassment within the movement is better or worse than harassment in the rest of our societies. Is this something we need to know before deciding whether to take action?
  • If we do decide this distinction is important, how do we collect the information needed? How do we overcome trends toward under-identifying and under-reporting harassment that have been demonstrated in scientific research on the topic?
  • If we decide this is worth addressing whether the situation is better or worse in our movements, what do we want to do about it? Do we want to adopt the kind of harassment policy that is ubiquitous in business and common at entertainment and social events? Is there another approach that makes more sense?
  • If we adopt a policy, how do we best make sure that event attendees are made aware of the policy?
  • How is it appropriate for our leaders–both thought leaders and leaders of our organizations–to talk about this topic? Is it appropriate to talk about problems within these movements in public venues? Is it appropriate to publicly issue opinions on claims of harassment without a full picture of those claims?

Again, these are decisions that individual communities will have to make. They are also decisions that will form the basis for whether these communities are considered welcoming to women.

Who can be criticized, and who is allowed to critique?

This issue has been mostly implicit in discussions in the last couple of weeks. I’ve only seen one person address it directly, commenting that she found the assumption that people who attended TAM would have input on its organization to be unfounded. It is, however, a real point of conflict that is adding to general ill will. It’s also an issue with a history that goes beyond the current conflicts. It’s about time that some of these questions were addressed directly if they’re not going to continue to be problems.

  • Is there room for the concept of “loyal opposition” in the skeptical and atheist movements?
  • Is there some amount of good a person can do for these movements that puts them beyond criticism, either generally or from people who don’t meet some criteria of importance themselves?
  • Is there a certain amount of criticism a person can generate that puts further criticism from them in the category of something that does not have to be considered on its merits?
  • Is there some other kind of hierarchy in our movements that determines who gets to set priorities for who can ask questions and who can decline to answer them?
  • How responsible are people for the behavior of those who agree with them? For those who pay only marginal attention to what is said?
  • Is there some degree of politeness or accuracy or good faith that is required for a point to be heard?

The answers to these questions may be harder, in part because we haven’t discussed them a great deal on their own. That doesn’t mean, however, that clashes in unspoken assumptions don’t get in the way of settling every other conflict we have to address. They do, and the only way to solve this is to bring the questions to the forefront and give them their own space.

How do we move forward?

This is really the whole point of this post. Sometimes we’re conflict averse because we don’t like the emotions involved. Sometimes we avoid conflict because we’re afraid we’ll lose. But the one reason we can’t avoid conflict, not on these issues, not anymore, is because we’re hoping it will resolve on its own.

There are fundamental differences embodied in the questions I list here. They won’t disappear because we don’t like looking at them. The only way to move forward is to address them. The process won’t be pretty, but can it be any worse than the system we’re dealing with now?

Comments

  1. says

    YES. Exactly. If anyone’s driving “drama”, it’s the folks making up side concerns and distracting from the real issues at hand while the adults are trying to damn well fix this stuff.

  2. says

    I’m going to expand the thought in my post @2: it’s certainly not a helpful one in isolation and without my further thoughts on the matter here. Consider it retracted until I can unpack it further.

  3. karmakin says

    One of the problems with talking about a sort of “loyal opposition”, so to speak, is how much moral force you want to put behind that sub-issue that there is disagreement over. Over different issues, people will put them at different levels of moralism, so to speak. So when talking about feminism and gender issues, generally speaking we (in my mind correctly) put a great deal of moral force behind that, to where people who disagree are seen as having something morally and ethically wrong with them.

    Where as someone who disagrees about say, different forms of evolutionary biology, so to speak, there’s not going to be the same level of moralism at play, so the concept of a loyal opposition makes much more sense.

    In that regards, one thing that’s going to, I think continue to cause a lot of conflict and turmoil is when other issues are not granted that same status that gender issues are. So when someone says that you’re privileged in some other way, they expect the same reaction, that is you shut up, sit down, listen and internalize what the other side is saying. Intersectionality is a real problem, and to be honest I suspect it’s a difficult one for pro-equality movements (of all types) to deal with.

  4. maureen.brian says

    Surely the very point at which you do need a Loyal Opposition is where people, albeit not consciously, have an interest in not addressing or not agreeing a solution.

    The finer points of evolution can be thrashed out over time and solely on the facts – however long it takes, however heated the debate becomes.

    The question of whether women are fully human (and what the answer might mean for future interactions with them) has been hanging there in mid air for far too long.

  5. says

    So when someone says that you’re privileged in some other way, they expect the same reaction, that is you shut up, sit down, listen and internalize what the other side is saying.

    Oy. I really hope people aren’t expecting the effect of pointing out someone’s privilege to be that person shutting up. That ought to be the start of a conversation, not the end of one.

  6. karmakin says

    In the immediate short term? Yes. They should just listen, more or less. Chances are anything they say is just going to be derailment anyway. Once they’ve internalized the non-privileged position and the blinders are gone a bit, then you can have a constructive conversation.

    Or to put it a different way, once everybody is on board with the basic premise, the intended destination, then you can work on how best to get there. But if people have entirely different premises and destinations in mind, then any sort of discussions on how are basically rendered worthless.

  7. says

    That ought to be the start of a conversation, not the end of one.

    Yes, but the point should be that such a conversation where other points of view are given space to be articulated and developed, whereas so often the discussion is derailed by filibustering and clear refusal to engage with or listen to what the other parties are saying. This point of Stephanie’s:

    Assumptions that the male experience is universal, and thus “correct”, when it comes to discussing these issues.

    … seems particularly relevant, as currently going through gender transition I can strongly attest to the attitudes of other people as well as the seriousness with which they treat your arguments noticeably changing when they are perceived to come from a woman rather than a man. But that’s only my observation, you see, so it can’t be typical of the universal male experience. (See how that works?)

  8. says

    In the immediate short term? Yes. They should just listen, more or less.

    This. it’s not about shutting up forever. It’s about shutting up long enough to listen to what’s being said. Don’t be so eager to voice your opinion that you forget to listen. It’s a bigger problem than you might think.

    It’s really simple: listen, then speak. It’s unbelievably common for people to skip the first step. In fact, it’s so common that I’d support an initiative to have all men in the world shut up for a week.

    I wish it was possible to do it. The world would never be the same again.

  9. beleth says

    Thank you for your article, Stephanie.

    As head moderator of the forum singled out above, I’d like to respond to the accusation that “misogyny is tolerated” there.

    I’ve taken great strides over the past few years to make sure that misogyny as a sentiment is kept to a minimum. As a man, I realize that I’m not the best judge of when misogyny is happening; to remedy that, I’ve selected three of the most outspoken, intelligent, well-respected women on the forum to guide me and help me moderate such sentiments. We also have a very easy-to-use reporting system so that regular members can report offenses of misogyny to us not-omniscient mods.

    I’ll admit I said “a minimum” and not “zero.” In the heat of a lively forum discussion, little cracks in the shell of decorum are indeed allowed there. But just little cracks. I think you’ll find that all the barriers bulleted in your article above almost never happen there, and are quickly slapped down when they do. It’s also important, especially in the context of the thread you linked to, to remember that criticism of the actions of one woman (the woman who decided that little cracks are allowed, by the way) does not equate to toleration of misogyny.

    Just wanted to clarify my stance on this issue.

    -Beleth

  10. Maria says

    Stephanie, while I find your post to be extremely interesting, I sometimes find myself in an awkward position. I consider myself a feminist, yet when I disagree with the characterization other feminists make of certain attitudes/events/etc, I am frequently accused of “not getting it”.

    I wonder how open to discussion certain “facts” about the intersection of feminist activism and skeptical inquiry are. For instance, my definition of “drama” is that of conflict with a performance component, as in a theatrical drama. I consider Rebecca’s reaction to be just this, and I have characterized it as such in the forum you just linked to (and yes, I came here because Beleth just happened to post the link, asking whether people believe misogyny is “tolerated” there). I also think that “drama” is something that has gendered connotations, which is why I find it hard to stomach that such a prominent feminist and atheist chose it as a course of action. Now, my question is how we can have a *discussion* of my position, when it is apparently in and of itself misogynistic.

    Having said that, I think that most of the issues you identify as needing correction are absolutely spot on, especially making child care available. I’m not entirely sure what topics are “of greater relevance to women”.

    As for harassment, which is at the root of both the actual conflict and the drama that surrounded it, my impression is that discussion within a community that labels itself as “skeptical” should not be grounded in anecdote. Fortunately, the actions needed to minimize harassment are probably implementable regardless of the degree of harassment that actually exists. Discussion of the problem, however, should be somewhat proportional to its preponderance.

  11. says

    Maria #11:

    As for harassment, which is at the root of both the actual conflict and the drama that surrounded it, my impression is that discussion within a community that labels itself as “skeptical” should not be grounded in anecdote. Fortunately, the actions needed to minimize harassment are probably implementable regardless of the degree of harassment that actually exists. Discussion of the problem, however, should be somewhat proportional to its preponderance.

    Your word salad of pointless and baseless concern is noted.

  12. says

    Well… it is hard to see people arguing against what we can call the “feminist position” without viewing them to be dismissive, minimizing, or marginalizing the issue. I wouldn’t call myself a feminist, but I find several posts here to be maddening in their lack of self-awareness. Being sort of a privileged asshat happens to the best of us, but when you drop by someone’s blog posting ABOUT SEXISM, you should sort of try to actually think about what you’re posting and whether or not you’re being part of the problem BEFORE you hit the “submit comment” button.

  13. Maria says

    And who decides what the feminist position is?

    Setar, I am so sorry that my command of English is not to your liking. Foreigners sometimes fail at writing colloquially. Noted.

  14. Marta says

    Maria @14:

    Your command of the English language is more than adequate. And, of course, you know it.

    This paragraph, however,

    “Fortunately, the actions needed to minimize harassment are probably implementable regardless of the degree of harassment that actually exists. Discussion of the problem, however, should be somewhat proportional to its preponderance”

    is absolute bullshit. I don’t know what you’re trying to express, but I can tell you with certainty that you are trying too hard to express it. I suspect you know this, too.

  15. says

    Maria, I can’t tell you whether what you’ve said elsewhere constitutes “not getting it”. I can, however, note that social behavior in general has a “performance component”. Formal debates in particular must appeal to the crowd, yet they’re never characterized as “drama”. Writing for the public contains a performance component, yet only some of it ends up called “drama”. I fail to see what you consider to be different about this situation that allows you to dismiss it as only drama.

    As for harassment, which is at the root of both the actual conflict and the drama that surrounded it, my impression is that discussion within a community that labels itself as “skeptical” should not be grounded in anecdote.

    I think a community that labels itself as “skeptical” probably needs to understand evidence a little better than that. Anecdotes don’t invalidate statistical analysis. However, the statistical analysis we have in the scientific literature says harassment is quite common in general. The anecdotes, many of them verified by witnesses, tell us the problem is present in our communities as well. They don’t tell us the scope, but as you go on to point out, that isn’t necessary for addressing the problem.

    Discussion of the problem, however, should be somewhat proportional to its preponderance.

    I’m not sure you understand how discussion works. I would love to have been able to say nothing more than, “Harassment happens. Good policies help. Here’s a link to a sample.” If I could have been done there, that would have been the ideal outcome. Eleven words, and more time to weed my garden.

    Discussion happens in proportion to interest. When there are competing interests, there is even more discussion. If there weren’t a bunch of people fighting harassment policies, this would be very quiet. If there weren’t people of stature fighting harassment policies, like Russell Blackford calling people who want them “Talibanesque” or D.J. Grothe saying people who need them are simply regretting their “sexual exploits”, there would be far fewer words.

    That’s why there’s so much discussion.

  16. beleth says

    Stephanie, I assume the thread you’re talking about is the one over on sguforums.

    I leave the discussion of the underlying issues in your capable hands. I’m a big fan of thinking globally but acting locally, and since I’m in a position to act on the charge that my favorite message board is tolerant of misogyny, I’m collecting data on that issue and will be planning a course of action consistent with that data.

    The data and the plan will be publicly viewable there, so I’ll refrain from any further distracting posts here.

  17. Maria says

    Stephanie, thanks for addressing my comment.

    I don’t know who Blackford is (I am relatively new to the community) and I did not know that D.J. had said such an ignorant thing. Was it in the context of this discussion?

    Discussion does happen according to interest. But interest is not independent of our perception of how prevalent the problem is. I am sure harassment happens. I also think that Rebecca’s experience, and that of other prominent skeptics, is nothing like mine. So knowing if female speakers, for instance, should receive special treatment of some kind (I don’t know what would be appropriate or feasible – having a volunteer around most of the time?) is something that would be useful if the reason behind the discussion is to find a solution, rather than bonding over common experiences (which is a valid reason for discussion, just not the kind I prefer over the internet).

    I did not dismiss Rebecca’s underlying point. I criticized her decision to not attend TAM, made a few weeks before the event. Saying “I am going to TAM because I have commitments that I should honor, but this is my last TAM unless we solve these issues, preferably in X way” would have been closer to what I think is non-drama behavior. Of course, she can do whatever she wants, but I don’t like being called misogynistic because I disagree with Rebecca’s style. I also think I can disagree with both D.J. and Rebecca without my feminism being called into question.

    I do wonder whether my stance plays into the hands of those who want to pretend that there is no harassment, or that Rebecca’s feminist activism is the problem. I don’t make for a good activist, because I can’t support positions that i don’t fully, or at least mostly, agree with.

    Just a note: I think my avatar is different because I’m posting from a different computer. just wanted to clarify that I’m the same as last night.

  18. maureen.brian says

    Maria,

    I am horrified that someone who claims to be a feminist can dismiss this as mere dramatics and pin all of the blame on Rebecca Watson.

    All you appear to know is that Rebecca refused to go to TAM. Do you acknowledge that as a free human being she can go and not go exactly where she chooses? Did you read her explanation of exactly why she made that decision and why she went public with it? Did you put all this in the context of the past year? The past 100 years?

    No, you didn’t!

    I suspect you are being used. I don’t think we have to look too far for a first guess at who the puppet master might be.

    Russell Blackford you can look up for yourself on Wikipedia, just as anyone else does.

  19. Maria says

    Horrified, really? Horrified that someone may look at the same set of events and come to a different appraisal?

    I am horrified that you read my post, apparently missed my criticism of D.J., and seem to think that supporting Rebecca’s position but criticizing her decision is beyond the pale. I read Rebecca’s explanation, and what she was reacting to, and thought it was overly dramatic.

    The fact that criticizing Rebecca’s actions somehow implies agreeing with D.J.’s remarks is also quite horrifying to me. Also, in the context of this post, I was responding specifically to the use of the word “drama”, not to the underlying issue, because I think there are enough sites where that has been discussed and will be discussed, but the issue of the word “drama” is something I find interesting. Anything I said about the conflict itself is ancillary to my discussion of this specific post, and some of the interesting questions Stephanie raised. Some I didn’t address because I have no context to understand what she was talking about (like the idea of a “loyal opposition” and what exactly it entails).

    But thanks, Maureen, you are an excellent example of the reception I’ve had whenever I have tried to argue against any number of things Rebecca has done, over at her site. Apparently I am either with her, or against her.

  20. says

    A couple of points, Maria.

    First, you don’t actually appear to have looked at the same set of events. You appear to have read Rebecca’s post without following through to the conversation that sparked it, where, yes, D.J. said that. Your problem may be not that you “don’t get it” but that you haven’t taken the time to absorb the background before developing and voicing an opinion. Deciding you know what’s going on to the point that you feel you can diagnose “drama” under those circumstances is fairly problematic.

    Secondly, maureen didn’t say you agreed with D.J. You might want to be more specific about what you’re objecting to.

    Finally, as regards Rebecca’s decision, she was not an individual speaker this year. She is part of the Skeptic’s Guide, which is the entity that has–and are keeping–that commitment. She spoke to the rest of the rogues before making or announcing her decision. That sounds incredibly professional to me.

  21. says

    beleth: I appreciate that you’re trying to do what you feel you can to fix the problem. Part of this is, unfortunately, the micro-aggressions that you call “little cracks” aren’t really being smacked down — and while, yes, mods aren’t omniscient and in so busy a place it can be difficult to police without the users’ help, if the users aren’t reporting this stuff then they’re complicit in those micro-aggressions’ existence. Over time, this makes a chilly climate for people. It makes a climate where misogyny is “tolerated”, despite your best intentions.

  22. says

    maureen, no one has to be being used for things to turn out the way they have. The degree of misunderstandings and incomplete understandings I see when I look into any forum is typically quite high. I suspect it has to do with a combination of a relatively closed group where registration is required and the fact that it’s very rare that a link is posted without it being framed. Everyone who is discussing something has been told what it is beforehand. That’s going to color their interpretation of it.

  23. superdave says

    My two cents: I don’t want women to feel marginalized on sguforums.com. If anyone here thinks that is happening, join the forum and speak your mind. Call out whoever or whatever post bothers you.

  24. Maria says

    I actually came to Rebecca’s post and D.J.’s comments that she was replying through a route that had nothing to do with the forum. I can’t have many open windows on this phone, so I’ll have to get back to you. I didn’t recall D.J. talking about sexual exploits before Rebecca posted her decision to not go to TAM. Again, I think D.J. was wrong in blaming her for women not attending TAM in the same proportion as last year. But no, i don’t think running it by the other members of the podcast is professional enough.

    I don’t lik the condescending assumption that I am somehow impaired in my reasoning because I disagree with you. I would expect a community that values nonconformity to at least grant me the respect that I grant you – we disagree, as reasonable people can. Stephanie, thanks for your hospitality, I won’t post here anymore, because I don’t “get it” but apparently I can’t be taught to get it without being attacked in the process.

  25. says

    Maria, let me ask a very pointed question, that I’ve asked other people making this assertion: what conscience-based circumstances would allow a person to withdraw from a conference without being deemed “unprofessional”?

  26. karmakin says

    Just to add on to what Jason said, you need a zero tolerance policy, either culturally or administratively enforced, otherwise such “cracks” become normalized, and in any case it doesn’t matter because those cracks are why some people would feel uncomfortable anyway.

    There’s a couple of problems with this. First, I think that most people, at least the ones that would be involved in this particular conversation have issues with zero tolerance policies in general, seeing how they’ve been abused in other parts of society.

    Second, there’s a desire, I think to more or less “freeroll” these solutions. They can have a very real cost, in that they tend to push away socially aggressive individuals who would then find the environment less “fun”. As we live in a society that actually values social aggressiveness, this, I think is a natural (not as in correct but as in automatic) reaction, albeit a privileged one.

  27. says

    Maria, you haven’t been told that you don’t get it. You’ve been told you’re underinformed. That’s quite different. Also, you don’t have to rely on your recollection. I gave you a link to the conversation in question. If you don’t want to read it, I can’t make you, but there is information there you really ought to have if you want to consider yourself informed on this topic.

  28. superdave says

    addendum to my post: As an active forum member, I will try to do a better job of calling out this kind of behavior too.

  29. Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle says

    Thanks, beleth. Thanks for letting me know that SGU forums is a place where a man can be a bigot towards a woman if he’s mad. And that women can expect to be subjected to “a little bit” of bigotry if they post there. Makes me totally want to run right over and engage! So I can be treated with about the same respect I get from skeezy ass dudes on the street for walking passed them.

    I wonder, does this “just a little bit” of bigotry standard apply to other forms of bigotry? Are white dudes allowed to call others the “N” word if they get mad enough? That’s the gauge by which you decide what’s acceptable, right? – how mad a white dude is?

    Stephanie – Cthuthlu bless you. How in the world you can put up with this mealy-mouthed, spineless bullshit and not explode is amazing to me.

  30. superdave says

    Illuminata, do you think the sguforum is a lost cause? Otherwise, why not join it and try to help make some change?

  31. says

    Superdave, do you think women joining your forum to speak up is going to be productive? I’ve joined it already and I posted my heart out for a long time, and yet it’s still a place where your head moderator–the person women are supposed to alert when misogyny slips through the cracks a little bit sometimes–says this to women:

    I can only genuinely support you when you’re right.

    You used to be right all the time, back when you were a skeptic who promoted feminism. But lately, now that you’re a feminist who targets inequalities in skepticism, you have been harder and harder for us folks who are still in it for the woo-bashing to follow and agree with.

    I hypothesize that you see it as personal evolution. But for those of us who haven’t evolved the way you have, we see it as bridge-burning. You are burning bridges, and then you bad-mouth the people who didn’t follow you across the bridge. It should come as no surprise that the members of this board perceive you the way they — we — do. In fact, it would be irrational to expect otherwise.

    So it’s cool over there to be a feminist, but not a feminist who targets inequalities, because that’s bad-mouthing the folksy folks who are in it for the woo-bashing, and if you target inequalities you should not be surprised if he and the others think of you badly. You’d be downright irrational to expect respect.

    Your head admin said this, in a different forum thread devoted to mocking and protesting what some women said. But it’s the women who don’t participate who are at fault for the board being like it is?

  32. superdave says

    About what Beleth said, the forum is not a republic, no one voted for Beleth to be a moderator and he doesn’t speak for the forum. It was wrong for him to speak for everyone on the forum in such a way.

    About women joining the forum, I have no idea if that will actually solve anything, but I think we need the help if any change will actually be made.

  33. Maria says

    Stephanie, that link did not point to the conversation. It points to a blog post that quotes the famous passage where D.J. basically pins the decrease of female attendance on female skeptics speaking out against harassment. There is no mention of exploits there or in the page that post links to. Which is fine, it’s up to me to check this but it us impractical to do it on a phone.

    Jason, if Rebecca thought there was an actual problem with harassment at TAM, she should gave canceled her appearance much earlier. I think a conscientious objection can only be warranted if the organizers or a fellow speaker do something that is absolutely objectionable. But being concerned about the lack of female participation and entirely wrong in the reaction to that is not enough. Again, I understand why people may disagree with me. What I don’t understand is why I can disagree without assuming you are “underinformed” but I can’t be granted the same courtesy.

    K, I don’t see how a zero tolerance policy can be enforced while keeping an atmosphere of open dialog. Open insults are not tolerated in the forum, but ignorance is. “tolerated” in this context means only that users are not officially warned because of anything other than insults. However, there are many posters who point out instances of ignorance related to a number if domains. We dud have a poster who was openly racist. She left not because of moderator action, but because posters engaged her and argued against her.

  34. superdave says

    I am not blaming anyone for anything, I merely asked for help. my request was sincere.

  35. MyaR says

    I think a conscientious objection can only be warranted if the organizers or a fellow speaker do something that is absolutely objectionable.

    You do realize that Watson’s decision to not attend TAM was because the main organizer of TAM (i.e., DJ Grothe) said (paraphrase) ‘it’s Rebecca Watson’s fault that women’s registration for TAM is less than last year’? And that it was her saying that sexual harassment happens within secular groups (not singling out TAM or JREF in any way) was the problem? Watson’s reaction was not to sexual harassment (if it were, she would have to get off the Internet and never leave her apartment, not just forego TAM), it was to the organizer’s reaction to sexual harassment.

    Just to be clear, I think (and clearly Watson thinks) that Grothe’s response to her and the rest of the skeptical feminists was absolutely objectionable. So, meets your criterion.

  36. maureen.brian says

    Zephanie,

    I apologise for abusing your space. I can only plead that there were a couple of triggers in Maria’s first post but I should just have shut up until I’d calmed down.

    Sorry.

  37. says

    I want to address this one thing – @ 32 –

    Illuminata, do you think the sguforum is a lost cause? Otherwise, why not join it and try to help make some change?

    Because it’s not fun, that’s why. It’s not fun to get gendered slurs thrown at you so that you can try to help make some change. That at least is why I don’t join it and try to help make some change. Time is short, I have a lot of other things to do, and I am fed up to the back teeth with boiz club atmospheres where I have to fight through a thicket of sexist insults just to make a point. Hell no.

  38. says

    @31, @33 and @42 make a textbook argument that the problem with the SGU forums is that it is presently a chilly climate.

    You have to fix that before you can get women in toward the end of fixing that.

  39. Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle says

    do you think the sguforum is a lost cause? Otherwise, why not join it and try to help make some change?

    Beacuse my name isn’t “mommy”. Because, as I said in my initial post, I am already treated like this on any random day . On the far more rare occasions when I can escape being around people like that, why would I then elect to jump right in where I am clearly not welcome to try to change the bigotted atmosphere that they apparent prefer? So I can be subjected to MORE of it?

  40. Pteryxx says

    do you think the sguforum is a lost cause? Otherwise, why not join it and try to help make some change?

    …That’s the moderators’ job. Why is this even a question?

  41. says

    About what Beleth said, the forum is not a republic, no one voted for Beleth to be a moderator and he doesn’t speak for the forum. It was wrong for him to speak for everyone on the forum in such a way.

    About women joining the forum, I have no idea if that will actually solve anything, but I think we need the help if any change will actually be made.

    If you, Active Forum Member, really want to help, here’s a place to start: Speak up on the forum (not here) and say that he was wrong to speak for the forum. And then contact the people who designate the forum administrators and voice your displeasure to them, too. Tell them you are an active forum member who wants more women members. Ask them to make the change from the top down, instead of inviting people to join the forum for the sole purpose of complaining about the forum to solve the problems.

    Because honestly? Has a newcomer ever joining anything just to make a complaint ever gone over well anywhere? Why is this suddenly a good solution when it’s a marginalized group trying to de-marginalize itself? It’s laughable, frankly, to say this with a straight face.

  42. superdave says

    Karen thanks for your suggestions, I’ll do what I can because I really do want to help.

    To the others, I understand your point, but do you see that without the participation of people in your community, we will have no way to know if any measures taken to solve the problem actually work. Don’t come to complain, come to participate.

  43. CT says

    @superdave You’re advocating a flame war in #25. Another way to interpret that is you’re asking women to troll the forum.

    I don’t think the result would be what you’re looking for. Would more women on the forum help? In my experience, once the status quo is set in a forum, the status quo is set, the end. Even if the moderators change, the users stay the same and the moderators aren’t going to protect new users who start flaming immediately. Their ad revenue comes from those other users, not drive bys.

  44. Sylvia Sybil says

    Don’t come to complain, come to participate.

    If nothing else, Superdave, I have to admire the sheer audacity of coming to a thread containing multiple examples of how your community is unwelcoming to women, and attempting to leverage that into a recruitment drive.

    “Come help us clean up the mess we made!” How could anyone resist that invitation?

    Seriously, though. You might want to reconsider what this looks like from the outside. Because the impression I’m getting of your community, based on your reaction to criticism, isn’t great.

  45. Pteryxx says

    To the others, I understand your point, but do you see that without the participation of people in your community, we will have no way to know if any measures taken to solve the problem actually work.

    Yes you will. Take measures to solve the problem, and you will know that they’re working when more women find it worthwhile to participate there. Everybody can read for themselves what sort of discourse goes on and how it’s moderated or not. Sheesh, we’re discussing it right here. There’s no reason to make fixes contigent upon women volunteering as lab rats for personal abuse.

  46. Karyn says

    If sexist comments are made that directly insult people, please report them to the moderators. The intent of the rules on the forums is to allow people to speak their mind, no matter what crazy comes out of it, as long as they aren’t directly attacking other members. Our process of banning members who repeatedly insult is necessarily slow to allow for the occasional blow up. Our system for issuing warnings is private. You can’t tell if someone has been warned unless they openly announce it. I’ve seen about 3 reports in the last 5 years about someone saying misogynistic things, all from different people against other different people.

    We are not interested in banning people just because they happen to disagree with us on an issue. We have allowed Christians, space elves and chiropractors a place to come and discuss their points of view with us. There are plenty of people on the forums that discuss all facets of an issue, including some people that just love to play devil’s advocate, regardless of their actual opinion. If you could please point us to specific instances of misogyny so that we can better understand what it is you are looking at, that would be very helpful for us in figuring out what you consider to be out of bounds on a message board that attempts to be open to all opinions while not personally attacking other board members. We seem to be getting pointed out a lot, but no one ever points to what specifically the problem is.

  47. says

    How is harassment to be addressed within the skeptical and atheist movements?

    Well there is an interesting question. To narrow this down to the small focus on conferences – one possible strategy appears to have been missed.

    No one appears to have talked about empowerment as a strategy. I say this because people who habitually harass people tend to be practiced at noticing those who are less likely to cause a fuss.

    A suggestion: along with useful ways of getting women to participate in conferences (like child care) how about some free assertiveness training? Or a lecture on risk management? Maybe even some self-defence classes? (There might well be some – both male and female – experts willing to volunteer here). N.B. I am not placing the onus on women to deal with worrying situations on their own here, and I am definitely not condoning violence. I am talking about how likely it would be that a woman fresh from training would give off a deterring air of self-sufficiency. This would be good for all parties. Also lessons learned at conference are, I believe, lesson meant to be taken home.

    Incidentally, this is one thing that given me pause when trying to assess the situation discussed on blogs at the moment. I would have thought that women attending such conferences would be – generally speaking – more intelligent, more articulate, and more feisty than is the norm. They are people interested in scepticism, free inquiry and self-education after all. These are people who have often fought against people telling them to conform and sit quiet in relation to all manner of things. For example, there is evident lack of worry over conformity in terms of religious adherence, sexual orientation, educational attainment etc.

    Now, if the situation is indeed as bad as it has been portrayed, then I wonder than there have not been more men publicly castigated, more men slapped down and – to be rather direct about this – more gonads in placed into slings.

    Anyways: a suggestion.

  48. says

    I wonder than there have not been more men publicly castigated, more men slapped down and – to be rather direct about this – more gonads in placed into slings.

    …more women charged with assault and banned from conferences.

    The women who are left in this movement are significantly “feistier” than the norm. Everyone else has been selected out. If you’ve been paying attention over the past year, you’ll notice that the “feisty” women have been targeted extra hard because of their “feistiness” too. After all, when we speak up, it causes that undesirable “drama”.

    You can tell me you’re not placing the onus on the women, but everything you suggest does exactly that–and then wonders why the women haven’t fixed this yet.

  49. MyaR says

    We seem to be getting pointed out a lot, but no one ever points to what specifically the problem is.

    Karyn, Stephanie linked you to a thread with an example — “I think he’s saying, stop lying about the state of TAM and talk about the real risks and real problems in a realistic, non-sensationalist, hyper-drama whore way.” (Some with the ‘nym Goodthink. Which comes across as a misnomer.)

  50. MyaR says

    And, just to clarify, the “hyper-drama whore” was Rebecca Watson. So she’s not just causing drama, but it’s hyper-drama, and she’s not even a hyper-drama queen, but a drama whore. No, that doesn’t come across as sexist or misogynist at all.

  51. says

    Stephanie

    …more women charged with assault and banned from conferences.

    I believe I did mention not condoning violence in my post above. I can only presume that you missed that.

    The women who are left in this movement are significantly “feistier” than the norm.

    Now that is interesting. For I am left in it and I am a hippy :)

    If you’ve been paying attention over the past year, you’ll notice that the “feisty” women have been targeted extra hard because of their “feistiness” too.

    I have indeed been paying attention. Yes, I have noticed dissent being targetted ‘extra hard’ – that must be what you are referring to.

    You can tell me you’re not placing the onus on the women, but everything you suggest does exactly that …

    I was suggesting free training (which entailed the opportunity for some friendly men to assist). I never turn down free education, and would be most happy to attend any classes offered.

    …and then wonders why the women haven’t fixed this yet.

    Stephanie, this is the third time in one short response that you have managed to misrepresent me. One time is a mistake, twice might be haste, three times is simply not acceptable. Please take more time responding and cut this practice down to manageable levels.

    No, this characterisation is incorrect. I was wondering at the lack of a certain type of reaction.

    Now there might well be all manner of reasons for this lack, and I would be very interested in hearing them if you have suggestions. However, I am someone interested in situations where the data supports the hypothesis. What I am not interested in post hoc rationalisations.

  52. karmakin says

    @Corylus One of the problems is that generally this issue is framed in strictly gender terms, so it’s very unclear about what exactly is going on. This is entirely understandable, considering how gendered the opposition to anti-harassment became, but in terms of harassment itself, it’s not just gender, after all, men can get harassed too, right?

    What we’re talking about here is more about social privilege. That is, that we as a society tend to value socially aggressive behavior over socially introspective behavior. And this privilege goes DEEP (probably because by and large it’s unexamined). Because of that, a lot of stuff that people maybe should report in order to establish patterns of behavior doesn’t get reported, because in other contexts it would be seen as acceptable behavior.

    The problem with dealing with harassment from this vector, is that generally people who do this will never see what they’re doing as being unwanted. It’s hard for them to get the picture. (I’ll be straight-up. The main reason I’m a bit of an extremist on this issue is that as someone with quite severe social anxiety I always assume that I’m the skeev in the room) Allowing people to toe the line will mean that they’ll cross it, especially when we’re talking about subjective reactions.

    This is why, although I can see that it’s a substantial problem, I have little hope that it’ll ever be fixed.

  53. says

    Corylus, I did indeed misread your “I wonder”. Please accept my apologies.

    For the rest, however, yes, you are in fact placing the onus on women to somehow become unharassable by virtue of your suggested training. You’re telling us women don’t currently give off a “deterring air of self-sufficiency” and that this, rather than the behavior of harassers, is what determines how much harassment occurs. We can tell you think this because you’re saying that a sufficient “deterring air of self-sufficiency” would decrease harassment, unless you meant something else by “good for all parties.” Additionally, you make not one suggestion that is about changing the behavior of the harassers.

    You say you don’t condone violence. I didn’t say you did. I did note that you use the absence of violence to imply that “the situation” is not “indeed as bad as it has been portrayed.” You now have a new input for your probability calculations.

    Yes, I have noticed dissent being targetted ‘extra hard’ – that must be what you are referring to.

    I have no idea what you’re attempting to say here. What I’m talking about is things like the campaign to get Rebecca Watson removed from Skeptic’s Guide. I’m talking about the posting of my employment information on a thread dedicated to hating those who said what happened in an elevator was not, in fact, zero bad. I’m talking about the ongoing participation in such a thread. I’m talking about getting a comment that said, for every person who commented about having been sexually assaulted, the commenter was going to go sexually harass a woman. I’m talking about Russell Blackford telling people I was like the Taliban because I suggested implementing anti-harassment policies [ETA for clarity: policies that prohibited vendor use of “booth babes”]. I’m talking about the people I talk with on Twitter being targeted with anti-feminist spam.

    I’m talking about things like this: http://www.geoffreyfalk.com/wp_blog/?p=18504
    I’m talking about things like this: http://freethoughtblogs.com/blaghag/2012/05/oh-yeah-well-youre-ugly/
    I’m talking about things like this: http://freethoughtblogs.com/ashleymiller/2012/06/06/arent-you-making-it-up-why-women-dont-report-harassment/
    I’m talking about things like this: http://freethoughtblogs.com/greta/2012/05/23/mencallmethings-ugly-mental-illness/

    That’s the kind of crap I’m talking about, and it’s a very tiny sample.

  54. says

    @Corylus One of the problems is that generally this issue is framed in strictly gender terms, so it’s very unclear about what exactly is going on.

    Yes, differential power relations can indeed muddy the waters.

    This is entirely understandable, considering how gendered the opposition to anti-harassment became …

    Now here you have lost me. Could you show me where men are opposing anti-harrassment? I understand that there has been discussion on whether a ‘no sex by speakers policy’ is a good idea (complex issue), but I have not seen any incidence of men opposing anti-harrassment.

    but in terms of harassment itself, it’s not just gender, after all, men can get harassed too, right?

    Indeed they can. You are quite correct here – and it is completely unacceptable. However, the strength and size differential between the sexes does make the first scenario more likely.

    What we’re talking about here is more about social privilege. That is, that we as a society tend to value socially aggressive behavior over socially introspective behavior. And this privilege goes DEEP (probably because by and large it’s unexamined). Because of that, a lot of stuff that people maybe should report in order to establish patterns of behavior doesn’t get reported, because in other contexts it would be seen as acceptable behavior.

    I see. Are you saying that conferences per se are places in which socially aggressive behaviour is likely to be ignored? You might very well be correct in this. In fact I can see that conferences might well also be places that sexually inappropriate behaviour might be more likely to be ignored. After all, you have paid for the hotel room – why not use the room for more than sleeping? (If you ask me this is not only a creepy thought process, but a lazy, penny-pinching one, but I digress).

    Now, the question that arises after all this is an obvious one.

    Is there any reason to suppose that such behaviour is more likely to occur at atheist/secular/sceptical conferences?

    If not, then the focus should be based upon cutting down on situational triggers rather than using language that implies that this is an especial problem for secular gatherings.

    The problem with dealing with harassment from this vector, is that generally people who do this will never see what they’re doing as being unwanted. It’s hard for them to get the picture.

    Yes, I do know the type :) This was one of the reasons I talked about assertiveness training. These people need to experience responses from individuals who are confident enough, and empowered enough, to tell them when they are out of line. This is not about aggression or getting charged with assault – this is actually a way in which you can do someone a favour.

    (I’ll be straight-up. The main reason I’m a bit of an extremist on this issue is that as someone with quite severe social anxiety I always assume that I’m the skeev in the room)

    Oh dear, please do not stress that one! No-one is born knowing how to behave in all circumstances. We all have to negotiate this. Hopefully we can all learn from mistakes make – I know of situations that I would love a change to ‘replay’. This desire in myself does give me a measure of hope.

  55. Kathy says

    I really admire the patience of everyone who is calmly engaging with the same old bullshit over and over again here. I’m about ready to bang my head against a brick wall just from reading it!

    So far we’ve had someone commenting on the subject before admitting they know nothing about it, someone suggesting that women just need to be a bit feistier, and someone pulling the old ‘is it really worse than antwhere else?’ irrelevancy. And all of it is competely tangental to the subject of the excellent blog post!
    It makes me despair for humanity, it really does..

  56. Pteryxx says

    This was one of the reasons I talked about assertiveness training. These people need to experience responses from individuals who are confident enough, and empowered enough, to tell them when they are out of line. This is not about aggression or getting charged with assault – this is actually a way in which you can do someone a favour.

    Um, no. You talked about assertiveness training FOR WOMEN, who are disproportionately the targets. But research shows that assertive, confident women tend to receive *more* harassment than passive ones. Also, research says sexually aggressive men generally know when they’re out of line and choose to proceed anyway. Genuinely clueless people really are not the problem here.

    A better solution is to have *sexual harassment awareness training* for EVERYONE: all genders and all degrees of cluelessness. Socially inept people of all genders can learn what behavior is not acceptable. So can women and other potential victims and bystanders learn when a situation is problematic and how best to defuse the situation and seek recourse.

  57. Pteryxx says

    Karyn re the SGU forums:

    I tried reading for examples for you, but I had to stop after reading Goodthink calling a woman bigoted and irrational because she’s wary of men in risky situations, knows the stats and has had a friend raped, and uses self-defense precautions often taught to women, such as carrying her keys in her fist. That’s not welcoming to women or other rape victims at all, and it disgusted me to read it.

    http://sguforums.com/index.php/topic,41904.msg9228909.html#msg9228909

  58. says

    Corylus, I did indeed misread your “I wonder”. Please accept my apologies.

    Well of course :)

    For the rest, however, yes, you are in fact placing the onus on women to somehow become unharassable by virtue of your suggested training.

    No, not at all. If I knew of a strategy that would make women ‘unharrassable’ then I would be shouting about it from the rooftops – not making mild suggestions on blogs! You will see that I used the phrase ‘how likely it would be’ and I also suggested risk management training. I am talking about a simple problem reduction strategy – I never claimed that it was comprehensive or some form of panacea. I think you will agree that there are predators out there who are adept at manipulating people into vulnerable situations, I am advocating making women (and any men that need it) aware of the dynamics of such behaviours.

    You’re telling us women don’t currently give off a “deterring air of self-sufficiency” and that this, rather than the behavior of harassers, is what determines how much harassment occurs.

    I am saying that this can be a factor. I am not saying that this is something that would be an issue in a perfect world, I am saying that this is an issue, and an issue that can be looked at.

    We can tell you think this because you’re saying that a sufficient “deterring air of self-sufficiency” would decrease harassment, unless you meant something else by “good for all parties.”

    Well, reduced harrassment is good for all parties, by definition.

    But yes, this can decrease harassment, just as the presence of others decreases harassment, just as sensible drinking can decrease harassment, such as explicit policies can decrease harassment. Do you have some particular reason for not liking the suggestion of classes on assertiveness, risk management and self defence? I really would be very interested to hear about this if so.

    (BTW – who is this “we”?)

    Additionally, you make not one suggestion that is about changing the behavior of the harassers.

    Social situations are interactive, we adjust behaviour in light of responses from others. Accordingly, I was talking about changing behaviour: changing the dynamic.

    You say you don’t condone violence. I didn’t say you did.

    No, you just talking about women being banned from conferences and arrested. Something that would be a direct consequence of violence.

    I did note that you use the absence of violence to imply that “the situation” is not “indeed as bad as it has been portrayed.”

    Again, no. I talked about several possible responses ‘public castigation’ being one of them. Of course, if if loud tongue-lashing counts as violence, then I stand corrected.

    You now have a new input for your probability calculations.

    Could you explain exactly what this ‘imput’ is and how I should apply it to assessing situation?

    I have no idea what you’re attempting to say here.

    Really? This is all over the place. In this very thread I have noticed a marked lack of willingness to engage with a calmly worded argument. For example:

    Your word salad of pointless and baseless concern is noted.

    This statement is content free, carries the discussion forward not one iota and is frankly juvenile to boot.

    What I’m talking about is things like the campaign to get Rebecca Watson removed from Skeptic’s Guide. I’m talking about the posting of my employment information on a thread dedicated to hating those who said what happened in an elevator was not, in fact, zero bad.

    I am vehemently opposed to any behaviour on blogs that talks of the removal of activists and speculates on who should or not be employed – or who should or should not resign for that matter. It is vindictive, unprofessional, unhelpful and unacceptable.

    I’m talking about the ongoing participation in such a thread. I’m talking about getting a comment that said, for every person who commented about having been sexually assaulted, the commenter was going to go sexually harass a woman.

    Any individual making such a comment is an obvious lowlife – I hope there comment received the contempt it deserves.

    I’m talking about Russell Blackford telling people I was like the Taliban because I suggested implementing anti-harassment policies.

    I am not into ‘he said’ ‘she said’ post mortems, particularly when you did not link to the example. I would however counsel against talking in such a fashion without specific evidence or qualification. I am concerned that much discussion at the moment skirts libel, if not commits it.

    I’m talking about the people I talk with on Twitter being targeted with anti-feminist spam.

    I am not on Twitter either – what a luddite! I don’t doubt this experience though, there are some deeply, deeply unpleasant people on the internet.

    I’m talking about things like this: http://www.geoffreyfalk.com/wp_blog/?p=18504
    I’m talking about things like this: http://freethoughtblogs.com/blaghag/2012/05/oh-yeah-well-youre-ugly/
    I’m talking about things like this: http://freethoughtblogs.com/ashleymiller/2012/06/06/arent-you-making-it-up-why-women-dont-report-harassment/
    I’m talking about things like this: http://freethoughtblogs.com/greta/2012/05/23/mencallmethings-ugly-mental-illness/

    That’s the kind of crap I’m talking about, and it’s a very tiny sample.

    Again, I am not doubting the presence on arseholes on the internet. What I am doing on here is offering some suggestions on conference improvement for analysis. I thought that this was the purpose of this thread. I hope I am doing this is a helpful and productive fashion.

    Now, back on topic. If you have a particular reason for not liking assertiveness/risk management/self defence training, then I would be interested in hearing it.

  59. says

    Could you explain exactly what this ‘imput’ is and how I should apply it to assessing situation?

    Women face unacceptable consequences for directly fighting harassment. You should drop any “if” statements that rely on your not having seen or heard such fighting, whether physical or verbal.

    I am not doubting the presence on arseholes on the internet.

    Irrelevant. You suggested I had to be talking about someone like maureen. I was not. Kindly acknowledge that, and the situation faced by women combating harassment, from this point forward. In fact, consider it a condition of continued participation.

    If you have a particular reason for not liking assertiveness/risk management/self defence training, then I would be interested in hearing it.

    Changing the behavior of the people who are well within their rights to attend a conference in as timid or insecure a condition as they like is not a fair solution to this problem. You’ve already been told this. Pteryxx has given you further information on that score. I trust you will also acknowledge both of these pieces of information going forward as well.

  60. karmakin says

    Now here you have lost me. Could you show me where men are opposing anti-harrassment? I understand that there has been discussion on whether a ‘no sex by speakers policy’ is a good idea (complex issue), but I have not seen any incidence of men opposing anti-harrassment.

    I think this is painfully obvious, although I think you’re missing a bit of the point. The big problem is that different people define harassment differently. I think that most people, generally speaking understand to a certain degree that groping is wrong. The problem is getting people on the same page (which I again, think is basically impossible) if hitting on people, men or women, is wrong. I do think that if defined in this way, there are many men (and women) who oppose anti-harrassment policies.

    Indeed they can. You are quite correct here – and it is completely unacceptable. However, the strength and size differential between the sexes does make the first scenario more likely.

    Not to be too cocky, but I think this diagnoses much of your “issue”. You basically are looking at harassment from what is basically entirely a physical standpoint, when often harassment comes from a social and emotional standpoint. It’s not about who is stronger, but it’s about social mores basically offering people up like some sort of twisted buffet. It’s seen as rude to disengage or whatever, so people, men and women alike are less willing to do so.

    Is there any reason to suppose that such behaviour is more likely to occur at atheist/secular/sceptical conferences?

    You miss the point. Compared to what? Compared to base amounts in society? Yes. I do think so. However, I do not think this is because of atheist/secular/skeptical issues. I do not think that we are, on average, more socially aggressive than the normal population (exactly the opposite, and that’s the problem), however I DO think that conferences in general tend to attract more socially aggressive individuals than the general population, and that people tend to act more aggressively at these events than they would during day to day life.

    In short, the focus shouldn’t be on atheist/secular/skeptic the focus should be on convention. This is something that events of ALL sorts have to deal with. I don’t think we’re any different, pro or con.

    However, because I do think as a more intellectual based outgroup than most that we do have more people who are repelled by socially aggressive behavior and it means that we probably should be more focused in trying to prevent it in the first place.

    Yes, I do know the type :) This was one of the reasons I talked about assertiveness training. These people need to experience responses from individuals who are confident enough, and empowered enough, to tell them when they are out of line. This is not about aggression or getting charged with assault – this is actually a way in which you can do someone a favour.

    Straight, flat out doesn’t work. You should do some reading on Pick-Up Culture (UGH!!!!)

    And my own personal demons, so to speak, is basically “empathy overload”, in that I tend to empathize with everybody way too much. Even though I’m generally in the camp of those who are being put upon, I still empathize to some degree with people who really do just want a “relaxed, open free” atmosphere, at least as they define it. I have to actively work to push down that reaction (and it’s not easy)

  61. says

    Pteryxx

    Thank you for the response. Assessment of my suggestion is what I am after.

    Um, no. You talked about assertiveness training FOR WOMEN, who are disproportionately the targets.

    I did indeed. A justifiable emphasis I would argue, as Stephanie’s post above does talk of misogyny and gendered language. However, I am quite willing to take your point on board and agree that equal access to any facilities / class provided should be a given.

    But research shows that assertive, confident women tend to receive *more* harassment than passive ones.

    Could you point me to this research please? Particularly as regards unsolicited advances in public places?

    Also, research says sexually aggressive men generally know when they’re out of line and choose to proceed anyway.

    Genuinely clueless people really are not the problem here.

    Well this I 90% agree with this, but I would still hold to my point that polite setting of boundaries can be a kindness to the genuinely clueless.

    A better solution is to have *sexual harassment awareness training* for EVERYONE: all genders and all degrees of cluelessness. Socially inept people of all genders can learn what behavior is not acceptable. So can women and other potential victims and bystanders learn when a situation is problematic and how best to defuse the situation and seek recourse.

    I have no issues with training – this has been what I have been advocating all along :) However, I am a little puzzled as to how this will help with (in your words) “sexually aggressive men generally know when they’re out of line and choose to proceed anyway”.

  62. says

    I took (another) quick look at the SGU forum. Yeah really not going there to try to make it more friendly to women. Not going there for any reason whatsoever.

  63. mk says

    If a meeting… a real live meeting with the physical manifestations of Ophelia, Stephanie, Rebecca, DJ, J. Randi and others, including some lawyers…hasn’t been discussed and scheduled, if the web is the only place the conversation is occurring, a positive resolution is highly unlikely. TAM will suffer as a result, maybe even disappear.

    Forgive me if I’ve missed the relevant info in some other discussions around the web. Is such a meeting in the works?

  64. Pteryxx says

    Citations for my last:

    Assertive women subject to more harassment:

    http://www.apa.org/monitor/may07/harassers.aspx

    From mouthyb:

    It’s a function of power and culture/gender policing, as the following studies discuss:

    http://genderbias.net/docs/resources/guideline/The%20sexual%20harassment%20of%20uppity%20women.pdf

    http://www.rotman.utoronto.ca/facbios/file/BerdahlAMR2007.pdf

    http://www.bsos.umd.edu/psyc/gelfand/Gelfandetal1995.pdf

    Men understand “no” but choose to ignore it:

    Research cited in “Mythcommunication” here:

    https://yesmeansyesblog.wordpress.com/2011/03/21/mythcommunication-its-not-that-they-dont-understand-they-just-dont-like-the-answer/

    Example:

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/almostdiamonds/2011/09/16/after-you-say-no/

    See also the degree of publicly viewable harassment Rebecca Watson has received, and is still receiving, which began directly after she posted the video recounting the elevator incident. That was calmly assertive behavior: “Guys, don’t do this” with explanation.

    Rebecca was also specifically targeted for further harassment, at TAM, and TAM’s harassment policy was enacted to prevent this harassment from being carried out. That would have been sexual harassment of an assertive woman in a public place.

  65. says

    If a meeting… a real live meeting with the physical manifestations of Ophelia, Stephanie, Rebecca, DJ, J. Randi and others, including some lawyers…hasn’t been discussed and scheduled, if the web is the only place the conversation is occurring, a positive resolution is highly unlikely. TAM will suffer as a result, maybe even disappear.

    I don’t know why anyone else speaks out about sexism and misogyny in skepticism, but I don’t do it to prevent the suffering or disappearance of TAM. The health and longevity of TAM is not my goal. I’m not worried about it at all. But if one focuses solely on sexism in order to preserve TAM, I agree that a positive resolution is unlikely, lawyers or not.

  66. Pteryxx says

    Corylus:

    I have no issues with training – this has been what I have been advocating all along However, I am a little puzzled as to how this will help with (in your words) “sexually aggressive men generally know when they’re out of line and choose to proceed anyway”.

    Then you didn’t read my post when you responded to it:

    So can women and other potential victims and bystanders learn when a situation is problematic and how best to defuse the situation and seek recourse.

  67. says

    Stephanie

    Women face unacceptable consequences for directly fighting harassment.

    Yes indeed they do. Not only for that either. They face unacceptable consequences for directly fighting inequality, they face unacceptable consequences for fighting repressive legislation, they face unacceptable consequences for making their own sexual choices. I could go on, but this is not in question.

    You should drop any “if” statements that rely on your not having seen or heard such fighting, whether physical or verbal.

    OK. Now we are getting somewhere, I think. You are making the valid epistemic point that absence of evidence does not necessarily entail absence of existence. Well fine. This is why I am an agnostic atheist.

    However, we can look at what we could expect to see at a given time and formulate conjectures, then we go beyond conjectures and start testing hypothesis: looking at what is both present and absent and trying to understand a situation in light of this. Of course, certainty is impossible, and it may be that reassessment or fresh information will yield a change of heart. What we can say is that if you are in the situation of not seeing what you expect to see, especially in light of research carried out, then you do need to consider the possibility of error/mistaken figures.

    You suggested I had to be talking about someone like maureen. I was not.

    I don’t understand. Firstly, my quoted comment was by someone called “Setar”. Secondly, I was responding to your request to explain ‘what I was attempting to say’ with an example. I never mentioned your ‘talking about someone like Maureen’.

    Kindly acknowledge that, and the situation faced by women combating harassment, from this point forward. In fact, consider it a condition of continued participation.

    Don’t worry. I have been around the internet for long enough to handle it when people do not want to engage with me. Continue to talk or not as you see fit – I really will not get offended :) I am engaging with you at the moment though. Productively I hope.

    Changing the behavior of the people who are well within their rights to attend a conference in as timid or insecure a condition as they like is not a fair solution to this problem. You’ve already been told this.

    Goodness me! I in no way suggested that ‘timid’ or ‘insecure’ people people should not attend in any condition that they wish! I simply suggested, free, helpful empowering training in a supportive environment. I do not see what is wrong with this.

    Pteryxx has given you further information on that score.

    I have replied separately to Pteryxx.

    I trust you will also acknowledge both of these pieces of information going forward as well.

    Can I ask you to be clearer please? What particular two pieces of information have you given me?

  68. Pteryxx says

    Corylus:

    I simply suggested, free, helpful empowering training in a supportive environment. I do not see what is wrong with this.

    Because instructing women to respond assertively *increases their risk* without solving the problem of harassment in any way.

    What we can say is that if you are in the situation of not seeing what you expect to see, especially in light of research carried out, then you do need to consider the possibility of error/mistaken figures.

    You should also consider the possibility of error when what you see IS what you expect to see.

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/lousycanuck/2012/06/02/the-further-hyper-skepticism-stalling-our-conversation

  69. says

    What we can say is that if you are in the situation of not seeing what you expect to see, especially in light of research carried out, then you do need to consider the possibility of error/mistaken figures.

    Or one can entertain the alternate hypothesis that you’re not paying attention to or are otherwise dismissing the relevant factors that explain why you’re not seeing what you’re expecting to see. In fact, you’ve demonstrated just that sort of behavior twice in this thread, first with not understanding why women wouldn’t confront this directly in ways that you would notice, despite your eventual “noncontroversial” recognition that the consequences for doing so are unacceptable, secondly with your idea that I must be talking about “dissent”.

    I have been around the internet for long enough to handle it when people do not want to engage with me. Continue to talk or not as you see fit – I really will not get offended :) I am engaging with you at the moment though. Productively I hope.

    Not particularly. You keep repeating things that have already been addressed. I don’t see how you could consider that productive.

    Goodness me! I in no way suggested that ‘timid’ or ‘insecure’ people people should not attend in any condition that they wish! I simply suggested, free, helpful empowering training in a supportive environment.

    That’s not at all what you recommended. You recommended “changing the dynamic” by changing the behavior of these women.

    What particular two pieces of information have you given me?

    1: “Changing the behavior of the people who are well within their rights to attend a conference in as timid or insecure a condition as they like is not a fair solution to this problem.”

    2: “But research shows that assertive, confident women tend to receive *more* harassment than passive ones.”

  70. says

    Thank you Pteryxx, exactly what I requested: A link to evidence. It does not seem specific to harassment in public places by people previously unknown to us, but no matter.

    Citations for my last:

    Assertive women subject to more harassment:

    http://www.apa.org/monitor/may07/harassers.aspx

    And other links that will take me longer to work through – great.

    From mouthyb:

    It’s a function of power and culture/gender policing, as the following studies discuss:

    http://genderbias.net/docs/resources/guideline/The%20sexual%20harassment%20of%20uppity%20women.pdf

    http://www.rotman.utoronto.ca/facbios/file/BerdahlAMR2007.pdf

    http://www.bsos.umd.edu/psyc/gelfand/Gelfandetal1995.pdf

    Now, from your first link…

    In three studies, Berdahl, a management professor at the University of Toronto, found that women who have more “masculine” personality traits experience the most sexual harassment.

    Do you think that the self-sufficiency that I advocate fostering is an intrinsically masculine trait? Would you argue against such initiatives as Reclaim the Night as counterproductive? Is uppity women marching a good thing? Or a bad thing? Can it be something to show that, yes, women can indeed be harassed, but many men have been given reason not to try this stunt twice.

    You are correct that in many situations, men react badly to women that they see as threats, but the solution to that is not to think about ways to stop being viewed as a threat – the solution is to ensure that you are a threat not worth risking. I understand that this may sound bellicose, but ‘threat not work risking’ includes all manner of consequences – being thrown out of a conference for inappropriate behaviour being one of them.

    Re: the elevator situation – I think we have all said what we can here, over and over!

    Now, apologies if I don’t comment much more – it is getting waaay past my bed-time :)

  71. Pteryxx says

    From the poster cited in “After You Say No” linked above, emphasis mine:

    What I want to talk about, though, is what it means for the well meaning advice of “just establish boundaries” and the like. Telling me that I’m just not being clear enough is not only a little paternalistic and patronizing, it assumes that the onus is on me to fend off creepy dudes rather than on dudes to avoid being creepy (NB: I am using gendered language here to speak to my experience, not because this is always how these situations break down).

    It ignores the very clear reality that drawing clear boundaries is not only often not enough, it is likely to draw reprisals from the party whose entitled demands are being stymied. I got off easy, he just called me a bad word and deleted all our conversations (yay screenshots!), I’ve had threats of violence, other women have actually had folks follow through on those threats. Telling me to draw better lines ignores all those times when I dread the risks of saying no more than I dread the consequences of saying yes, when I feel like I’ll be hurt more if I say no than I will be if I say yes. It ignores the times when, for whatever reason, no isn’t an option.

    It breaks down to this: I don’t just forget about the word no, if it’s available I’ve probably already used it. Talking to me about clear boundaries is saying that you’ve never had to worry about reprisals or had your no’s ignored enough to make them feel meaningless. I envy you, I seriously do, but you need to stop it, it’s insulting and unhelpful. Try telling people to respect boundaries and create non-threatening spaces instead.

    http://anotherfeministblog.wordpress.com/2011/09/16/boundaries/

  72. Maria says

    Stephanie, I think D.J.’s comments in that thread were made after Rebecca’s decision. I don’t think anything said after justifies her decision.

    Having said that, I acknowledge the experiences of women being harassed. I hope solutions can be found.

    As for the forums, I don’t find them particularly hostile to women. Yes, I disagree openly and frequently with goodthink and have been called a bigot by him. It’s the price I pay for entertaining the possibility that I’m sometimes wrong. A community where everyone agrees on everything is not my thing, but i see how it can be someone else’s.

    Maureen, I sincerely apologize for whatever negative reaction I triggered.

  73. says

    Maria, the comments on that thread were closed the day before Rebecca’s post. They were not made after it.

    You may not find the fora hostile, but many women have said they do find them hostile. Several of them have participated in this thread. They are not willing to pay that “price” to engage there. That you are doesn’t change this and it doesn’t get more women to participate.

  74. says

    As for the forums, I don’t find them particularly hostile to women. Yes, I disagree openly and frequently with goodthink and have been called a bigot by him. It’s the price I pay for entertaining the possibility that I’m sometimes wrong. A community where everyone agrees on everything is not my thing, but i see how it can be someone else’s.

    You may not find them particularly hostile to you, but if they weren’t hostile to women in general, wouldn’t more women actively participate there? There are dozens to hundreds of women missing from the forum (depending on how you calculate active membership). Definitely the male/female ratio is far below what even the accepted male/female ratio in the skeptical community is. When women do show up, they do not stay there long. Something special is going on at that forum to skew these numbers.

    Do you really think it’s because women prefer to only go places where everyone agrees on everything?

    And if exposing themselves harassment, sexism, and misogyny is a necessary price women have to pay to learn that they are wrong sometimes, that is a hostile place by your own definition.

  75. says

    I need to agree with Stephanie and Pteryxx. I’ll grant that training women in self-defense gives them a boost in confidence, but I will absolutely under no circumstances consider that any way to ameliorate the situation. It puts the onus of responsibility for providing a safer environment on the bullied, rather than making the bullies pay a higher premium for their transgressions and providing infrastructure for support for those who do get bullied anyway.

    If you want to get trained, fine. Get trained. But don’t expect it to change how likely you are to get bullied — or how much more favorably the outcomes to those encounters will be. That’s magical thinking. We’ve already established we’re not dealing with the “reasonable” people when we’re talking about harassment.

  76. says

    A community where everyone agrees on everything is not my thing, but i see how it can be someone else’s.

    Boy I wish people would stop pretending that the issue is disagreement as opposed to sexist trash-talk.

  77. says

    A community where everyone agrees on everything is not my thing, but i see how it can be someone else’s.

    That’s one step removed from accusing the people you’re disagreeing with of groupthink.

  78. mk says

    I agree Karen, this is not solely about TAM. However since DJ’s comments about women and TAM pretty much sparked the current discussion I thought it was relevant. And it is my opinion that a meeting as described would benefit TAM and the larger community of skepticism. TAM has an opportunity here. It carries weight. It can be a catalyst for change. But that change will never come if all we have is blogs talking past each other.

    Sexist, misogynistic assholes will never be swayed by very pointed and reasonable blog posts like Stephanie’s here. Real world changes from smart policies and actions will go much further in enlightening the above assholes. Those policies and actions will never come to fruition if it is left to website commentary.

  79. says

    However since DJ’s comments about women and TAM pretty much sparked the current discussion I thought it was relevant.

    Incorrect. We were talking about harassment long before DJ made it about TAM, and his fans made it about DJ-vs-Rebecca. While this specific post is explaining exactly that fact, it almost certainly would have happened without DJ conflating TAM with the entire skeptical movement.

  80. says

    Those policies and actions will never come to fruition if it is left to website commentary.

    Good thing nobody is leaving it to website commentary. TAM’s feeling the effects, apparently, of missing women attendees. Their absence is a message that speaks very clearly.

    TAM has an opportunity here. It carries weight. It can be a catalyst for change.

    Yes it could, if it tried to change what it was doing that those missing women don’t like instead of badgering those missing women for doing what TAM doesn’t like.

  81. Pteryxx says

    Seriously, this was in the freakin’ OP with links and everything.

    This discussion has gone on far longer than the year since Rebecca said, “Guys, don’t do that.” PZ asked almost a year before for input from women on what kept them away and what needed to be fixed, and the discussion was ongoing before that.

    This particular round didn’t get started by Rebecca at all, nor by DJ – it started when Jen of Blag Hag casually mentioned she’d received informal warnings of creepy speakers to avoid, at a different meeting entirely. DJ made his complaint about TAM in the course of the resulting discussion:

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/tokenskeptic/2012/05/30/why-would-women-choose-not-to-return-to-an-atheist-andor-skeptical-convention/

    Also remember that Rebecca recounted being hit on in an elevator at another event, which she attended as a speaker. At that event, she gave a talk on how women are treated in the skeptic movement, including the problem of widespread sexual harassment making them feel unwelcome. She’s been SPEAKING on this topic for more than a year, at multiple events.

    http://skepchick.org/2011/06/about-mythbusters-robot-eyes-feminism-and-jokes/

    It’s completely dishonest to portray the harassment issue as something personal – personal “drama” – between Rebecca and DJ. It’s just as dishonest as the portrayal of the previous year’s round as mere personal drama between Rebecca and Richard Dawkins, and there’s a reason for that: to undermine the real discussion of the real problem. Y’know, the real problem-solving that is THE POINT OF THIS POST yes I’m frustrated.

    I have all those reference links ready and waiting because basic myth correction has to happen over and over in this discussion. I have reference links for positive discussions and proposed solutions too, but hardly anyone is asking about THOSE.

    Because I’m annoyed, here’s the link to my comment on getting free sexual harassment awareness training sessions from your local rape crisis center.

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/almostdiamonds/2012/06/04/what-did-d-j-apologize-for/#comment-86994

  82. says

    A community where everyone agrees on everything is not my thing, but i see how it can be someone else’s.

    I’m sorry. I can’t let this go.

    This isn’t what any of us want. We want to be able to disagree with one another without anyone resorting to ridiculous reductionism like “Taliban” or “locker room talk”. We want to be able to look at the evidence presented — and there’s been a shit-ton of evidence presented, make no mistake — and move on from there.

    If you want a place where everyone disagrees with you for its own sake, where people asking disingenuous and leading questions even while blatantly moving goal posts, that’s your look-out. If you want a place where it’s safe for women to be told they’re the reason they’re getting harassed, you have fun with that. Don’t call a place where denialism and hyper-skepticism are frowned upon “a community where everyone agrees on everything”. Especially not when the problem we’re talking about is people treating one another like shit for year after year of concerted troll attacks. Especially not when we’re actually trying to fix the problem that everyone but the obvious trolls are in agreement to begin with.

    If you’re behind on all of this, it’s up to you to catch up. We’ve given you all sorts of links. We’ll keep moving forward while you’re running to catch up, and we’ll help you forward where we can, but stop trying to slow the rest of us down.

  83. says

    For those of you that linked me to specific posts and members, thank you for your feedback. I appreciate the help.

    So….we have one guy out of 10,000 members who says some pretty stupid thing, and you are writing the entire forum off as unwelcoming to women? One guy makes the entire place intolerable, and yet not one person bothered to hit the report button on him.

    Not. One. Report.

    When we have a four threads pop up in a single day, generating traffic a huge storm of traffic in a very short period of time, and only three people trying to police it, things are going to get missed. We eventually locked the threads when they were getting hostile, and you have no idea what action we took behind the scenes in the forms of warnings.

    I’ve stuck with the SGU forums through various forms of drama over the last 5 years. When I’ve come up across an obstacle or a situation I didn’t like, I made every effort to work past those obstacles and attempt to make the forum a better place. I didn’t just up and leave at the first sign of conflict and write the whole place off as ‘dumb’.

  84. Pteryxx says

    karyn: I’m not a member of the SGU forums and never have been. I owe them no loyalty. Still, I went to that thread to see for myself how a discussion of harassment proceeded instead of just taking others’ word for it. There weren’t 10,000 members posting on that thread; perhaps a dozen. One of them wrote the post I referenced, which was callous and disgusting enough that I stopped reading shortly thereafter. Only one commenter bothered to object, even mildly, and none of the moderators who were involved in that discussion. That brief observation generally bears out the disparagement I’ve heard. Frankly, if none of your registered members bothered to report him either, that does not help your case.

    Why do you think I, a casual visitor, need to investigate further, much less register, before deciding that your forum isn’t worth my time? I’m busy enough with the harassment discussions HERE.

  85. says

    @karynwittmeyer :

    One poster is actually far more than enough if the remarks are bad enough and go uncontested (especially by the forum moderators and regulars). That establishes the atmosphere of the place quite clearly, whether you realize it or not.

    Also, if you actually have 10,000 active members and only three moderators, you are massively understaffed and need to consider that this guarantees your community will be hostile to some people all of the time. I personally doubt there are actually ten thousand active members, since most communities see far more registrations than actual participants (and the lists are rarely pruned).

  86. says

    KarenX #33:

    (yeah, funny about the names…)

    The irony is that the perceptions of women that are the root of the issue *are* woo in and of themselves. It’s just this big wooful hole in the thinking of people like DJ that they don’t care to examine — it’s why you hear people who should know better defending evo-psych against “politically correct” feminism.

  87. says

    karynwittmeyer #94:

    So….we have one guy out of 10,000 members who says some pretty stupid thing, and you are writing the entire forum off as unwelcoming to women? One guy makes the entire place intolerable, and yet not one person bothered to hit the report button on him.

    Not one person bothered to … report“, and you don’t see how that might come off as unwelcoming to women?

    Seriously?

    Check your privilege =/

  88. LadyBlack says

    Maria #11 said :
    “As for harassment, which is at the root of both the actual conflict and the drama that surrounded it, my impression is that discussion within a community that labels itself as “skeptical” should not be grounded in anecdote. Fortunately, the actions needed to minimize harassment are probably implementable regardless of the degree of harassment that actually exists. Discussion of the problem, however, should be somewhat proportional to its preponderance.”

    Setar replies : “Your word salad of pointless and baseless concern is noted.”

    From an outsider’s point of view, everything Maria said was absolutely on the button. Before you accuse me of being “under informed”, I have followed this saga from link to link, from comment to comment, from EG to D.J. Grothe and I disagree with Rebecca’s view point. I don’t think disagreeing with her equals “I hate women” and I can’t see how being as condescending, intolerant and downright disgustingly rude as Setar was helps the situation.
    I agree with Corylus – a good way to deal with bullies is to self-empower. “Self-sufficiency” is not a masculine trait, but can be a powerful feminine one.

    This RW shit (and I’m not discussing feminism here) gets stuck to anyone coming into the blogs, and the only thing which seems to matter is that you have to pick the right side.
    You have been shown by different people that even when people try to understand, try to engage, they are met with rudeness and threats of being banned. Why can you not understand that this is an issue? Why are you asking for a place where people can disagree when quite clearly you are intolerant of it?
    This is very sad, and I‘m sure this post will be removed pretty sharpish, so I won’t bother waiting around. I just wish you could understand that the problems are not external.

    Quote :-

    “I don’t lik (sic) the condescending assumption that I am somehow impaired in my reasoning because I disagree with you. I would expect a community that values nonconformity to at least grant me the respect that I grant you – we disagree, as reasonable people can. Stephanie, thanks for your hospitality, I won’t post here anymore, because I don’t “get it” but apparently I can’t be taught to get it without being attacked in the process.”

    Yes, I find this a frightening, threatening place to be. I’m sure I can find plenty of other places which are happy to make people feel worthless without pretending that they are not.

  89. says

    LadyBlack, you’re saying two different things here. First, you’re saying that you don’t find the conversation welcoming. There are, in fact, barriers to participation in these discussions. One of the things that is required to participate is the ability to ignore irrelevancies and focus on arguments. That is, however, a requirement for both sides if any progress is going to be made.

    You’re also saying you agree with two arguments that have been put forth up thread. Those arguments have already been argued against. If you want to support them, ignore Setar. Interact with the people who have already disagreed with you (me for Maria’s point, Pteryxx and me for Corylus’s). Or, to put it in the same way Corylus did, which you apparently didn’t find unwelcoming: “Could you point me to this research please? Particularly as regards unsolicited advances in public places?” What evidence are you ready to cite that assertiveness and self-defence training are a better solution to the problem of harassment at events than having harassment policies in place?

  90. materialist girl says

    (quote) “Also, if you actually have 10,000 active members and only three moderators, you are massively understaffed and need to consider that this guarantees your community will be hostile to some people all of the time. I personally doubt there are actually ten thousand active members, since most communities see far more registrations than actual participants (and the lists are rarely pruned).”

    The 10,000 member comment (which has come from a few of the SGUF’s mods now) is ridiculous. They have 10,000 registered members over the past five or six years, but active members? As in people who actually post there? I’d be surprised if there’s more than 50. I’m not sure how rational it is to believe the tiny group of predominantly male posters is a diverse group of 10,000 people. Seems a bit self-deluding, actually.

    If SGUF wanted to begin making the place welcoming to women, they’d first off get rid of the Explicit forum (yeah, if you’re not a member you don’t get to see the forum where dudes post pictures of breasts, straw man threads about feminists, and can basically say whatever they want without moderation because “it’s in Explicit!”). And maybe then they’d give up the pretense that ‘free speech’ trumps all, and that expecting people to engage Gish-like gallops of endless streams of posts, goalpost moving, denialism, endless personal attacks, and trolls posting sexist shit for YEARS is somehow protecting ‘free speech.’ The lack of any substantial response from the existing forum members is telling. The fact none of them have reported any of this behaviour to the mods is telling.

    Also, if Beleth was really engaged in making the place less hostile for women, he wouldn’t use scare quotes when he started threads like ‘Apparently we’re “tolerant of misogyny”‘.

    (quote) “If you want a place where everyone disagrees with you for its own sake, where people asking disingenuous and leading questions even while blatantly moving goal posts, that’s your look-out.”

    Yep, this sounds a lot like the SGUF.

  91. superdave says

    If the women here feel unwelcome by the forum, then by definition, the forum is unwelcoming to women. I assure you that there was no intention for this to ever happen and that the majority of the people on the board want the place to be more welcoming to women. If we are defensive about this topic, it is only because many of the dedicated posters feel a sense of attachment to the forum and don’t like seeing it accused of something negative.

    But I can tell you that right now we are actively discussing ways to make the forum more hospitable for women.

  92. Pteryxx says

    LadyBlack: why do you think this is about what names you (yes you) agree with or disagree with, instead of actual evidence?

    Hint: The issue is not which PERSON to defend. It never has been, not for years. Read the OP and my posts citing evidence right in this thread, for a start.

    And if you refuse to look at evidence, and haven’t after all this time, what WOULD the proper term for that be except “under informed”?

  93. says

    superdave: My own registration has been pending for forever, so I can’t get in. I registered almost a year ago, haven’t ever bothered to ask anyone what the deal is. So I can’t see that “explicit” forum. Can you confirm its contents as described by materialist girl? Because if it’s a forum equivalent to 4chan /b/, you might want to consider that that contributes to the chilly climate atmosphere you’re noticing.

  94. Hertta says

    I have an idea of how to tackle the problem of bulling in schools: Take all the kids that are likely to be bullied to training, where they are taught how to seem more likable, smile more, take a joke, act less gay, wear nicer clothes, become better at sports and stop being so annoying. Really. I think that would help. /sarcasm

  95. beleth says

    Since I see that my posting again isn’t really going to distract from the flow of the discussion, a few facts.

    1) The rules at sguforums were written by Rebecca Watson.

    2) The person who appointed me “Boss” (her word) at sguforums was Rebecca Watson. She has since passed on the position of being the person to whom I report, but she was the one who hired me.

    3) There are discussions and moderator activities that are going on behind the scenes all the time. It should not be assumed that just because a post goes publicly unchallenged that it is going completely unchallenged.

    4) I do not discuss sanctions of less than a “muted” (suspended) level with third parties. Questions of a “what did you do to sanction the poster of {this quote}?” nature will go unanswered.

    5) I do not delete posts, except under one very specific circumstance that is irrelevant to this conversation. I also do not edit posts for content unless the content is of a private nature. In other words, insults stay there for the world to see, forever. That doesn’t mean I’m tolerant of them; it means I hold other values higher than I hold the right to not be offended.

    6) I do not consider the desire to not be offended to be a right.

    Now. If you want to provide me with constructive criticism, including your offer to help with the solution, I’m all ears. But if all you want to do is heckle what I’m doing from the sidelines, offering neither a solution nor support, well, I guarantee that I will give your comments all the attention they are due.

  96. beleth says

    My own registration has been pending for forever, so I can’t get in. I registered almost a year ago, haven’t ever bothered to ask anyone what the deal is.

    Jason, your account was approved on October 25, 2011.

  97. beleth says

    Stephanie, constructive criticism is a problem solving technique that focuses on addressing problems in an objective, positive, direct, effective, and timely manner.

  98. says

    All right, beleth, if you want play things that way.

    You have ruled out changing the rules. You have ruled out adding transparency to processes. You have chosen to frame this as something where you are only willing to consider what “rights” a person has. What possible sorts of advice would you be open to? And if you can’t answer that, why did you bother asking for any?

  99. karmakin says

    Constructive advice? Here’s my go.

    First, put a sub-forum up where all warnings are publicized.

    Secondly, have the moderators edit actionable posts, not by changing the content (although this might be needed from time to time when the line has been blown up), but by putting a warning in big bright text that will be read by everybody that this behavior is NOT allowed.

    Third, increase the number of moderators. Particularly get moderators of different backgrounds

    And that’s about it. For what it’s worth, these things come directly from a different forum (MTGSalvation.com) and they work fairly well for what they’re intended to do in THAT instance. (Keep the forums properly organized and on-topic)

    I also post on TVTropes forums, in the On-Topic Conversation group, and that forum is maintained by VERY strict on-topic rules and instant deletion of over the top and personal attack posts.

  100. says

    Now. If you want to provide me with constructive criticism, including your offer to help with the solution, I’m all ears. But if all you want to do is heckle what I’m doing from the sidelines, offering neither a solution nor support, well, I guarantee that I will give your comments all the attention they are due.

    This made me raise my eyebrows. “Give me a solution or else I’ll ignore your criticism”? Nice.

  101. beleth says

    I don’t think that’s a fair assessment of my position at all, Stephanie.

    I have not ruled out changing the rules. It’s difficult, and requires the approval of people higher than I am in the food chain, but it’s not impossible. How would you like to see the rules changed, and how would those changes affect the intent of the forum to provide an intellectually-challenging environment for rational, polite discussion?

    I have not ruled out adding transparency. Why do you believe it is necessary?

    Could you explain your reasoning behind your statement that I am only willing to consider rights? I am trying to understand your thought process, but to be honest I can find no foothold on that statement.

    I am open to all constructive advice, as I’ve said. I don’t want to put a limit on your thoughts, so I can’t answer that question any more specifically.

  102. beleth says

    Karmakin @114 –

    That is beyond awesome. That is exactly the kind of constructive advice I am looking for!

    I appreciate that a lot. Thank you.

  103. CT says

    karynwittmeyer says:
    June 11, 2012 at 9:00 pm
    For those of you that linked me to specific posts and members, thank you for your feedback. I appreciate the help.

    So….we have one guy out of 10,000 members who says some pretty stupid thing, and you are writing the entire forum off as unwelcoming to women? One guy makes the entire place intolerable, and yet not one person bothered to hit the report button on him.

    Not. One. Report.

    As a long time forum moderator and host I can tell you that one person crapping in every thread is not something new and special. Users aren’t suppposed to have to report, moderators are supposed to effing moderate bullshit like that. This is like saying the only time police should respond is when someone reports a crime, not when the police see it with their own freaking eyes. “oh well, I can ignore that, no one has reported it yet”

  104. beleth says

    CT @118, that’s an unfair assessment too. We’re not ignoring things we see; we were just unprepared for a deluge like we got and missed a lot of it the first time around. But it is being addressed.

  105. says

    @119

    Very, very little of this is deluge-related. This isn’t a problem with moderators and posters “missing” the misogyny. They are promoting it. For example: people have been complaining about the Explicit thread for at least two years (or used to). It was set up because people wanted a place to post pictures of naked people, and it was hidden behind a membership wall so that visitors dropping by wouldn’t see it and think badly of the place (the stated purpose of which at one time was to support science and skeptical education), and so people who posted there wouldn’t have their names spotted by strangers. Post counts there don’t tally. Women members who complained about it were told that they didn’t have to click on the links. Defenders of it say that it’s part of the fun of being a skeptic. There’s even a Boobs, Volume 1 thread of more than 300 pages that moderators participate in, and a Boobs Volume 2 thread that is still active.

    These PR problems you’re having are not new, and they are not related to a few hard-working mods getting behind on pesky snoops just picking out a few threads to badmouth them unfairly. These are structural problems that embed misogyny and sexism into the forum’s makeup, and they have moderator endorsement (and at one point even a podcast panel member). The explicit thread is a place people need “to protect” for “free speech” and “entertainment.” It’s explained as being a place for “Grownups” who don’t need a “babysitter” and people who are uncomfortable with it can stay on the “safe swing set” that is the regular board.

    I could go on. I have gone on, in other threads at SGU, in years gone by, where I heard all these arguments and received a lot of insults for taking this prudish stand. To improve this public image problem is going to take a lot more effort and heartbreak than training a few more moderators. And that’s all I have to say about that.

  106. smhll says

    @11 “Fortunately, the actions needed to minimize harassment are probably implementable regardless of the degree of harassment that actually exists.”

    Do you mean in person? Because if you have suggestions for minimizing harassment on the internet, I’d love to hear them. Personally, I am stumped.

  107. says

    Actually, beleth, you don’t moderate here. Karen is not required to phrase “moderators do this” in terms of “moderators should stop doing this” here. If you choose not to make the translation yourself, so be it, but it’s really not that hard.

  108. says

    beleth: that’s not sniping et cetera. KarenX is explaining that there are tilts built right into your forum system and moderation infrastructure that punish people who consider the very existence of a board full of objectification of women to be rather chill-inducing. It’s relevant. You should consider it. Just because she didn’t offer a way to change it (outside of dropping the board that is full of explicit materials or telling moderators to stop actively participating in them), doesn’t mean it’s not relevant.

    Thank you for looking into my forum registration status. It will be useful in telling whether these assessments are valid, but I have my doubts I’ll be actively participating any time soon. Sorry.

    Further transparency is probably paramount here. Regardless of what you’re comfortable with sharing to third parties, there should at the very least be warning/ban level information posted, with a clear record of who’s gotten how many warnings and how many warnings it takes to earn yourself a ban. You’re going to have to crack skulls when people get terribly bigoted, like goodthink in the example posted. Configuring it so people who are banned have that fact posted prominently in their profile on every post would also help.

  109. beleth says

    No, of course I don’t moderate here, Stephanie. Not sure why you felt the need to say that.

    KarenX stated a lot of objective facts about the Explicit section. That was a great first step. What I’m looking for to make this constructive is her advice on how to proceed. I’m inferring from her statements that she believes simply shutting down Explicit will solve the issue, but I know from a previous attempt to do that that it doesn’t; it just scatters the topics to other sections of the forum.

    I’m still anxiously waiting for your constructive advice too, Stephanie.

  110. says

    Yes, beleth, I shall take it as my personal responsibility to solve all your problems and I shall…tell you to go do some research. Find out which fora are considered welcoming to women and find out what their moderators do. Yours is not the first forum in existence. Do some due dilligence.

    Transparency is paramount because you’re not trusted at this point due to past behavior. If you want to be, you have to earn it. If you want people to know you’ve earned it, they have to know what you’re doing.

  111. says

    Oh, but I will give you one piece of very concrete advice: Don’t let Explicit spread. You’re the moderator. You have that power. All you have to do is be willing to use it.

  112. says

    Transparency is not only paramount to show you’re taking this seriously, but to show completely new users that this structure is in place. Dealing with this stuff quietly is fine if the offenses are quiet, but if they’re public, the response should be exactly as public.

  113. says

    In fact, that’s why the advice to edit the post with the offense to put the warning THERE is important — to put the response to the behaviour exactly where the behaviour was, so the response is not buried.

  114. beleth says

    Thank you, Stephanie. Seriously.

    I have a lot of things to coordinate and balance, but I envision changes for the better happening because of this.

    Take care.

  115. mk says

    “mk, why would D.J. meet with people he says are only talking about this for the pageviews?”

    Well, he’d be an idiot not to. Would you meet with him? Do you think the idea has any merit?

  116. CT says

    beleth says:
    June 12, 2012 at 12:52 pm
    No, of course I don’t moderate here, Stephanie. Not sure why you felt the need to say that.

    KarenX stated a lot of objective facts about the Explicit section. That was a great first step. What I’m looking for to make this constructive is her advice on how to proceed. I’m inferring from her statements that she believes simply shutting down Explicit will solve the issue, but I know from a previous attempt to do that that it doesn’t; it just scatters the topics to other sections of the forum.

    IMO you’re right. No matter how many doors you close, folders you limit, until the behaviour of the users changes, nothing will change.

    As for controlling a ‘deluge’ of posts that happens over a short period of time, the usual way is to remove the thread from public view until it can be moderated and put the forum on full moderation until the shitstorm passes. Yes, that pisses people off but it also prevents your forum looking like a pile of dog poo for the rest of eternity. Keep the forum on moderation until everyone calms the eff down, then take moderation off. Post an information report on “why we can’t have nice things” then tsk tsk those that need it, cross your fingers and hope for the best.

    This approach works if you don’t have too many trolls but pisses off people who think it’s their explicit privilege to post whatever bullshit they please.

    :: insert quote about pleasing all the people here ::

  117. says

    it is so gross to see all the JREF forumites emerging in this discussion at FTB. They are all showing up here and hiding the overt sexism that they display over there to try and make it seem like they aren’t totally biased. I’ve read enough threads about rape there to know how you creeps react when a woman speaks up about sexism- the folks here haven’t, but I sure wish they had, so they wouldn’t waste their time with intellectually dishonest scum.

  118. CT says

    Stephanie Zvan says:
    June 12, 2012 at 1:02 pm
    Oh, but I will give you one piece of very concrete advice: Don’t let Explicit spread. You’re the moderator. You have that power. All you have to do is be willing to use it.

    I’m getting the vibe from beleth that actually using moderation is not something they’ve actually done before. And I’m still slightly in shock that a forum moderator had disbelief that one person could ruin an entire forum. I’ve seen one determined person ruin a forum that had thousands of users and years of threads. So I’m taking the high road and assuming that this person has actually zero experience in moderation. Of course, someone just posted that I should take the low road but I hate it down there, the skeeters bite.

  119. CT says

    Jason – Further transparency is probably paramount here. Regardless of what you’re comfortable with sharing to third parties, there should at the very least be warning/ban level information posted, with a clear record of who’s gotten how many warnings and how many warnings it takes to earn yourself a ban.

    Really. I’m just completely floored that this forum doesn’t have this already? Yes, there needs to be a document posted publicly that everyone sees when they go to the forum outlining what, where, when and who to report to.

    As for a list of who is banned, I think that’s overkill and likely to create a drama train. It’s not like you can actually keep out the banned people unless you use full moderation.

    More useful would be a list of comments that caused bans — perhaps in a non-trigger post somewhere. you wouldn’t want that bullshit on your info page but a link to “here’s what not to do” might be useful. I’ve not personally used that method tho so I don’t know if it would help or cause more drama.

  120. says

    @CT:

    More useful would be a list of comments that caused bans — perhaps in a non-trigger post somewhere. you wouldn’t want that bullshit on your info page but a link to “here’s what not to do” might be useful.

    That would only work for the rare cases where people were banned for a single post, instead of for a whole pattern of derailment, stonewalling and refusing to engage thoughtful responses, bad faith arguments, loaded questions, etc etc. You really need to see the whole disruptive pattern before you can understand why the ban happened.

    And frankly, it’s these patterns of behavior that is the real problem. In the case of the single comments that are so beyond the pale that they result in an insta-ban, it is usually easy enough for most visitors to understand why that was unacceptable. What’s hard is to stop the trolls who, like schoolyard bullies, know exactly how far they can go with each individual incident to maintain some sort of plausible deniability.

  121. CT says

    What’s hard is to stop the trolls who, like schoolyard bullies, know exactly how far they can go with each individual incident to maintain some sort of plausible deniability.

    Agree. If that’s the user base, the forum is a loss. Let the trolls feed on themselves. Even full moderation won’t stop this.

  122. Sally Strange says

    I have some advice, beleth:

    1. Put up a post about Schrodinger’s rapist

    2. Ban anyone who makes comments similar to those “Goodthink” makes–with extreme prejudice and plenty of publicity

    3. Ban anyone who protests about the bannings for a long period of time, like, oh, say two weeks.

    At this point you’ll find out whether your membership is majority misogynist or not. If it is, no worries, the ensuing brouhaha will probably encourage lots of new membership by feminists who suffer SIWOTI syndrome.

  123. says

    I’d like to point out that I’ve tried resetting my SGU forum account password three times now, and I never get any emails. As far as I know, they’re black-holing before they get to my mail server. Which explains why I never saw the email saying my registration was approved. So, I’m incapable of responding to this thread calling Stephanie a man-hater.

    I only know about this because they linked to a post she made on my blog defending me, a man, for using both the terms “douchebag” and “vaginas’ owners” (poetically — e.g. with context).

    That’s awfully man-hating of her!

  124. beleth says

    Couple more things.

    CT, I’m puzzled as to who you are referring to when you say that a moderator disbelieves that one person can ruin a forum. I certainly didn’t say that, and I don’t think Karyn or Maria said that either.

    Your condescending tone in many of your posts as to how I run sguforums shows an embarrassing ignorance of my actual experience in this regard, as well as the actual (as opposed to data-mined) culture and tone of sguforums. I do not blindly condemn how you run your message boards without any actual experience on them; I request that you extend to me the same courtesy.

    Moving on.

    Re @60 –
    Stephanie, where is this “campaign to get Rebecca Watson removed from Skeptic’s Guide” headquartered? if it’s on sguforums, I’ll bring down the modhammer bigtime. That’s simply unacceptable.

  125. says

    holy shit beleth, seriously? your response to 141 is really lacking. In 142 you say that all this criticism of your forum is just embarassing ignorance of the culture and tone of the forums and when someone digs up a thread about how stephanie is a man-hater from that forum your only response is to their email difficulties? are you fucking kidding?

    keep digging that hole, people will see you for what you are. you’re underestimating how many people took a trip to the forum and found that it was exactly the kind of pit that here folks alledge.

    hey, whats your cute name for FTBs again? you know, since you want to act all pissy and indignant about the lack of respect for *your* forum, I thought you might want to share with the rest of the class how you talk about this place elsewhere.

  126. Pteryxx says

    skeptifem: Oh, but beleth won’t accept any evidence for toxic culture at SGUforums unless women register, go there, read ALL the threads and produce a comprehensive data set of the incidence of misogynistic, pornographic, and rape-apologetic comments, and hit the ‘report’ button on each of them; this on the forum where beleth is a moderator.

    But nobody HERE is allowed to point out examples or be critical or condescending in the meantime. Or sarcastic, I suppose – oops, my baaaaaad!

  127. Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle says

    I do not consider the desire to not be offended to be a right.

    Oh, so that’s all unhinged bigotry is! Just “offensive”. How silly these chicks are, huh? Getting all upset over something so harmless and merely “offensive!”

  128. says

    I do not consider the desire to not be offended to be a right.

    @147 Shameless self-promotion time! I addressed this “right” back in April:

    Women do not have the right to not be offended.

    And…

    To follow up with @146–There’s not a need to collect evidence for how the culture is toxic. The evidence already exists: Women do not post there in great numbers because most women dislike the forum and avoid the forum. If the forum people care, they’ll try to fix it. If they don’t, they’ll keep the status quo. And if they like the status quo more than they dislike the criticism and attention they receive for maintaining an environment that most women dislike and avoid, then they shouldn’t complain or worry about criticism from anybody, because they are still seeing a net benefit.

    To behave otherwise is irrational.

  129. CT says

    Pteryxx says:
    June 13, 2012 at 12:29 pm
    skeptifem: Oh, but beleth won’t accept any evidence for toxic culture at SGUforums unless women register, go there, read ALL the threads and produce a comprehensive data set of the incidence of misogynistic, pornographic, and rape-apologetic comments, and hit the ‘report’ button on each of them; this on the forum where beleth is a moderator.

    Okay, I have one last thing to say here that maybe some of you aren’t aware of. There is a culture of troll forums. They feed off ad revenue oh and newbies. This action that you mention, clicking the report button on every thread or post that is all those bad things? That is exactly what they want. They want as many clicks as possible so they can justify their existence. “see, boss person, we have zillions elebenty clicks so you should just let us be” And, not surprisingly, this works. I know of several of these forums in a forum network that will never go away for this very reason. People have tried to get them shut down but the network will refuse because of ad revenue. This particular network makes these forums list themselves as “adult” so they can hide them from the front page but other than that, no, they’ve been there for years generating revenue for the network and no one is going to touch that.

    The best thing to do to a forum of trolls is nothing, never click, always advise everyone else you know not to click. I’ve seen a few troll forums finally go away using this method. I don’t expect it to work on the forum listed here tho. Too many conflict loving people in the skeptic community (whatever that is).

    As I kept telling myself this morning “you are not the jackass whisperer and all the flame wars in the world will not make the jackass change their mind”

  130. beleth says

    Wow, where to start. In order, I suppose.

    @140 –
    Wonderful response, sallystrange. Seriously. Again, that’s exactly what I’m looking for: a to-do list. You are part of the solution.

    I’ve now posted a link to Schrödinger’s Rapist here: http://sguforums.com/index.php/topic,42117.0.html

    I see the merit behind your second and third suggestions as well, but honestly, the culture there is a little less dramatic than that, and I’d like to keep it that way. Warnings first, then suspension and bannination when warnings don’t correct the problem.

    @145 –
    Skeptifem, did Jason forward you the email I sent him? If not, then why are you commenting on its contents?

    I don’t know what you are referring to when you talk about my “cute name” for freethoughtblog.

    You misread what I said in 142. I didn’t call CT on CT’s criticism of the forum; I called CT on CT’s criticism of my moderation experience.

    Have you had a chance to read this yet? http://sguforums.com/index.php/topic,42101.0.html

    @146 –
    Pteryxx, that is an unfair assessment of what I am asking for. People are complaining about posts I probably haven’t read yet, and I am asking for them to show them to me. People who get indignant at that request are not part of the solution.

    @147 –
    Illuminata, that is also an unfair assessment. You are not being part of the solution.

    Have you had a chance to read this yet? http://sguforums.com/index.php/topic,42101.0.html

    @148 –
    Stephanie, thank you for the link. As it is not on sguforums, I have no power over what gets said there. Have you contacted Dr. Novella about it?

    I don’t know if I’ll find any of the SGU forum members there either. I don’t see how it’s relevant. What they post on other sites is really no concern, or responsibility, of mine.

    @149 –
    KarenX, are you sitting down? Because you might want to be.

    You are absolutely… right.

    In fact, I am primarily basing our changes to Explicit (and there *will* be changes) on a post you made back when you were an active member: http://sguforums.com/index.php/topic,21834.msg525448.html#msg525448
    I’ve presented three scenarios to the other mods, and we are discussing and voting on them now.

    Also, not to repeat myself, but have you read this yet? http://sguforums.com/index.php/topic,42101.0.html

    @150 –
    CT, let me state this as clearly as I can: The existence of the forum has nothing to do with how many clicks it gets. My position of authority there has nothing to do with the number of clicks it gets. Your scenario of us generating revenue from reports to the moderator is hallucinatory and not even wrong. You should be embarrassed by it. You are not part of the solution.

  131. Karyn says

    Wow, yeah. The rogues at the Skeptics Guide to the Universe (including Rebecca) started and maintain a ‘troll forum’, hell they even promote it on their podcast, just to dishonestly generate more revenue.

    BWAAAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAAHhhhhhahahahhaa.

    We don’t don’t get paid to put up with this crap, we volunteer for it because we love our community, we love skepticism, and most of all because we think the SGU has a great message that we want to help convey to people.

    If I recall, you are the one that gets paid to generate traffic. No wonder you’re stirring the pot. All those clicks must be making you MILLIONS!

  132. says

    Karyn, what the hell are you talking about? You’re responding to CT. The only person who gets paid anything on this blog is me. And frankly, what I make is both not huge and goes into an account that gets turned around and used for donations to various organizations that are pushing this movement forward.

  133. Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle says

    beleth – go fuck yourself. What isn’t helping is your bullshit dismissiveness. Although, thanks for the belly laugh at you thinking YOU decide what constitutes a “solution”.

  134. beleth says

    Okay, Illuminata, you have my full, undismissive attention now. What *does* constitute a solution? What should I do to make sguforums more woman-friendly?

    See 114 and 140 for examples of the kind of positive, constructive advice I’m looking for.

  135. Forbidden Snowflake says

    beleth –

    Skeptifem, did Jason forward you the email I sent him? If not, then why are you commenting on its contents?

    Why should she care about the contents of your letter? The issue that was raised publicly in this thread wasn’t addressed publicly, and she’s right to point that out.

    You are not being part of the solution.

    You still don’t understand that nobody owes you a solution, do you?
    People don’t have to pay with constructive advice for the right to criticize your forum.
    People who don’t participate in your forum are not particularly invested in its success.
    You seem to be demanding things from people who owe you nothing.

  136. Karyn says

    @ Stephanie: sorry…for some reason I thought it was you accusing us of trolling to make money. The last paragraph was meant to be sarcasm. I know the FTBers make money off ads, and I have no issue with that. It’s a perfectly legit business, IMHO.

    @ Illumiwhatever: “Go fuck yourself”. My, my. Way to make people feel ‘welcome’ and contribute constructively to the conversation. We don’t even allow people to say something like that on the forums without getting a warning.

  137. Karyn says

    Yes, because we ban people for the f-word on our forums. The f-word is the only issue we would have with that sentence. The fact that it is a direct insult to someone else posting here has nothing to do with it. #sarcasm

    Your statement just proves you don’t actually have any idea what happens at our forums.

  138. maureen.brian says

    Yes, beleth did post a link to Schrödinger’s Rapist. Sadly, the note with it does not show a good moderator’s sense of balance nor any great wish to be helped – despite his protestations.

  139. beleth says

    On the contrary, snowflake; people to whom I owe nothing are demanding things from me.

    Maybe I won’t change anything after all. I don’t owe them anything. But that makes me dismissive.

    Okay, maybe I will change something. But what? How do I figure out what needs to be changed? I know, I’ll ask the people who are demanding things from me.

    But they aren’t interested in answering that question. So I don’t know what would make them happy. Or maybe they don’t really see it as a problem.

    But they keep complaining about it.

  140. teethering says

    Stephanie, how many in your estimation should have been banned for calling Natalie a “tranny”? I’d be particularly interested in specific links to the threads so I can see the context of the alleged slur.

  141. beleth says

    Yes, beleth did post a link to Schrödinger’s Rapist. Sadly, the note with it does not show a good moderator’s sense of balance nor any great wish to be helped – despite his protestations.

    Oh good lord.

    This is why I ask for advice. This is why I want people to tell me their requirements. Because when I do what is asked of me, I still get yapped at for not doing enough.

    You had your chance, Maureen. You had four days to tell me “Post Schrödinger’s Rapist, but make a balanced plea for help with it.” And you blew it.

    Go pound sand.

  142. beleth says

    beleth, you’ve gotten lots of suggestions. Go put them in play.

    Let’s recap them.

    @114:
    First, put a sub-forum up where all warnings are publicized.
    I’ve never seen a board do that at the warning level. Even the board karmakin points to doesn’t do it at that level; they just have a thread to announce suspended/banned members. We have better in place already – each suspended/banned member gets their own thread.

    Secondly, have the moderators edit actionable posts
    It’s been my experience that editing the actual post doesn’t do any good, because by the time the post is edited, most people interested in the thread have read past that post and will never see the warning. Instead, we can reply to the post and put a modbox in the reply. That way, everyone will read it anew.

    Third, increase the number of moderators. Particularly get moderators of different backgrounds
    We already have five moderators, three of whom are women. Selecting a new moderator is an arduous time-consuming task; if it happens, it’ll be some time down the road.

    @127:
    Yes, beleth, I shall take it as my personal responsibility to solve all your problems and I shall…tell you to go do some research. Find out which fora are considered welcoming to women and find out what their moderators do. Yours is not the first forum in existence. Do some due dilligence.
    In progress. My favorite so far is the one at http://www.healthboards.com/boards/faq.php?faq=faq_hb#faq_poliguid :
    “Do not criticize or attack others. They are entitled to make their own choices. Negative communications are inappropriate. This is not the place to post slanderous or hateful statements about anyone. Derogatory comments especially aimed at sexual orientation, gender, race, color, religious beliefs, national origin, or DISABILITY — are not permitted.
    “BEFORE you post a message that may embarrass, humiliate or harass a person or group of people, stop and THINK first! Harassing communications are deemed to be any words that may cause distress, embarrassment, unwanted attention or other discomfort.”
    I’m going to wave that in front of the other mods for review.

    @128:
    Don’t let Explicit spread.
    Okay.

    @140:
    1. Put up a post about Schrodinger’s rapist
    Done!

    2. Ban anyone who makes comments similar to those “Goodthink” makes–with extreme prejudice and plenty of publicity
    Probably going to go the “warn, warn, suspend, ban” route, but yeah.

    3. Ban anyone who protests about the bannings for a long period of time, like, oh, say two weeks.
    That’s a different infraction entirely, and makes me out to be a despot. No one wants me to go down that road.

    There ya go. Anything I missed?

  143. says

    Secondly, have the moderators edit actionable posts It’s been my experience that editing the actual post doesn’t do any good, because by the time the post is edited, most people interested in the thread have read past that post and will never see the warning. Instead, we can reply to the post and put a modbox in the reply. That way, everyone will read it anew.

    DO. BOTH.

    That way newbies coming to the thread seeing the offensive material know, inline, that it was corrected. Also posting at the end calling that to attention is great for people following the thread, but just leaving the offense and marking it as trigger-ish or warn-able or whathaveyou will do a hell of a lot more than burying the “hey, don’t do crap like that” five pages on.

  144. smhll says

    @beleth

    I read your linked post. Very well written. Read a couple pages of comments. While I read things contrary to my opinion, I did not see an immediate dive into shittyness. So I guess I can stand it that they disagree with me.

    Your comment – “I speak as I am spoken to.” suggests that as soon as one person starts flaming, your whole thread is going to burst into flames. That doesn’t really strike me as the moderate-ness that a moderator needs to keep things moderate (or well-moderated). Just my opinion.

  145. says

    OK. I was addressed outright and constructive advice was requested, so here’s what I think about the Explicit board in a nutshell.

    If you want a place members can blow off steam, fine. But the minute the board starts providing:

    1. A place for people to bond over naked people (usually ladies, usually ladies who have not given permission for their pictures to be copied into the SGU forums)

    2. A place that protects people’s user names so they can go bond over pictures of naked people or whatever behavior that they like to do but would be embarrassed if other people in other places found out about

    … you’ve got a place that takes the side of the objectifiers over that of the people who are put off by being in a place that sexually objectifies people (usually women) when they were seeking out a place to discuss skeptical topics. It doesn’t matter one whit if they don’t have to opt-in (yes, I read some threads at the forum) or don’t have to click on the links in the first place.

    The problem is that the board officially endorses objectifying people (usually women). It is not because people don’t like sex or porn. And saying that you’re not endorsing it but are just providing a place for it is actually still an endorsement. You made it possible. And you set it up to protect from shame the people who use it for that purposed. And so long as you are protecting those people, the people you claim you are trying to help aren’t going to believe you.

    And I don’t think you’re ever going to get traffic from disgruntled people who have been there and seen what some of the regulars have said about women in general or some women specifically. There’s probably nothing you can do that will appeal to that audience. But you might have a better chance of attracting and keeping new visitors (and women) in the future if you listen to what the disgruntled people now are saying.

    Setting the bar of redeeming yourself in the eyes of people you’ve (collectively, as a forum community) have decided are just looking for boogeymen to fight and will never be happy as something you have to achieve or it will all be pointless to me just looks like a way to get out of making any changes. These people are not your goal. New recruitment is what you should be concentrating on.

    If…

    …if you actually want to change the demographics of the forum. You honestly may not want to. You may decide that you like it the way it is and the changes aren’t worth the risk of upsetting a loyal crowd. That is fine. But if you go that route you’ll also have to stop getting upset when outsiders you collectively have no respect for anyway say bad things about you. That’s called lacking in the courage of your convictions, and you can’t have it both ways.

    If you make no changes, people will always criticize you. But if you think those are unreasonable people making unreasonable criticisms, you shouldn’t care.

  146. Forbidden Snowflake says

    On the contrary, snowflake; people to whom I owe nothing are demanding things from me.

    Can you point me to where anyone has demanded anything of you, before you asked for suggestions and people started making them?
    I’ve looked, but I don’t see any demands before that point, only criticisms.

    Maybe I won’t change anything after all. I don’t owe them anything. But that makes me dismissive.

    In that case, enjoy your boys’ club, and don’t complain the next time someone accuses you of tolerating misogyny.

    Okay, maybe I will change something. But what? How do I figure out what needs to be changed? I know, I’ll ask the people who are demanding things from me.

    When you say things like “I’ll ask the people who are demanding that I do things just what they want me to do”, your distortion of the order of events becomes obvious.

    But they aren’t interested in answering that question. So I don’t know what would make them happy.

    Really? I thought that even before you asked for suggestions, the criticism was rather detailed. And even more so after.

    Or maybe they don’t really see it as a problem.

    Or maybe they don’t really see it as their problem.

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